Relative Pronouns


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What Are Relative Pronouns? (with Examples)

A relative pronoun is a pronoun that introduces an adjective clause. In English, the relative pronouns are: A relative pronoun is used to start a description for a noun. (This description is called an adjective clause or a relative clause.) The description comes after the noun to:

(1) identify it.

For example: (2) tell us more information about it.

For example:

Relative Pronouns (for People and Things)

Your choice of relative pronoun is determined by whether it refers to a person or a thing. Your choices are: Note: Be aware that a fair proportion of your readers will not like you using that for people. It is good advice to avoid using that for people, especially in formal writing.

Relative Pronouns (in Different Cases)

Your choice of relative pronoun is not just determined by whether it refers to people or things. It is also determined by the role the relative pronoun plays in its clause. For example:
People or ThingsSubjective CaseObjective CasePossessive Case
People who

(The boy who rang the bell)

(The boy whom you met)

(The boy whose bike was stolen)
Things which

(The candle which melted)

(The candle which you made)

(The candle whose wick had snapped)
People or Things that

(The dog that bit the postman)

(The dog that the postman hates)

(The dog whose bark sounds like cough)

Prepositions with Which and Whom

When whom or which is the object of a preposition, you can start the adjective clause with the preposition (as opposed to the relative pronoun). For example: It is not a mistake to leave the preposition at the end of the clause, but be aware that some of your readers might think it looks a little informal, especially if the preposition also ends the sentence.

Therefore, in formal writing, try to avoid ending a sentence in a preposition. However, if doing so makes your sentence sound stilted, then either try to reword your sentence or just leave your preposition at the end.

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See Also

Advice or advise? List of easily confused words