Relative pronouns (rules & examples)

Relative pronouns rules




Feel free to leave a comment if you find any errors or if you have any suggestions to make to improve this lesson.

We use a relative pronoun in English to describe a name or give us more information about it. This description is called a relative proposal, and therefore begins with a relative pronoun. This description comes after the name.

  • The woman who phoned me last night is my girlfriend. (Noun: ‘The woman’. Relative pronoun: ‘who’. Relative proposition: ‘phoned me last night‘)
  • The man who fixed your computer is waiting outside. (Noun: ‘the man‘. Relative pronoun: ‘who‘. Relative proposition: ‘fixed your computer’)
  • I saw the cat which ate the food. (Noun: ‘the cat‘. Relative pronoun: ‘Which‘.)
  • Paul, who owns a video game store, is waiting for you. (Noun: Paul. The relative proposal gives us more information about him: ‘owns a video game store‘)

There are five relative pronouns in English:

  1. who
  2. whom
  3. whose
  4. which
  5. that

Who (subject) and whom (object) → generally used for people.
Whose → for possession.
Which → for things.
That → used for both things and people.

Use of relative pronouns:

After a name, to specify what thing or person we are talking about:

  • The house that Sam built is big.
  • The woman who discovered radium is a scientist.
  • The thirty-year-old man who attempted to rob a bank was arrested. 

To give more information about a thing or a person:

  • My dad, who worked in a restaurant, has always been a great cook.
  • Tina, who is 25, has just started a new job.
  • We had pizza, which is my favourite meal.

Be careful, we don’t use ‘that’ as a subject in this kind of sentence. WHOSE is used as the possessive form of WHO:

  • This is Paul, whose sister went to university with me.

We sometimes use whom as the object of the verb or proposal:

  • This is Kevin, whom you met at the party last year.
  • This is Paul’s sister, with whom I went to university.

But nowadays, we use more who instead of whom:

  • This is Kevin, who you met at the party last year.
  • This is Paul’s sister, who I went to university with.

When whom and which have a preposition (from, with…), it can be at the beginning of the relative proposal:

  • I have an aunt in England, from who(m) I inherited a bit of money.
  • We bought a washing machine, with which we washed all the laundry.

… or at the end of the proposal:

  • I have an aunt in England who(m) I inherited a bit of money from.
  • We bought a washing machine, which we washed all the laundry with.

That can also be used at the beginning of the proposal:

  • I had an uncle in England that I inherited a bit of money from.
  • We bought a washing machine that we washed all the laundry with.


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