The most common relative pronouns are:
– who (subject), whom (object): to refer to people;
– which: to refer to things;
– that: to refer to either people or things;
– whose: the possesive of who and which;
– when: used after nouns referring to time;
– where: used after nouns referring to place;
– why: used to refer to reasons.
Note: what is not a relative pronoun.
Watch out: The relative pronoun replaces the subject or the object.
– People who (they) live in glass houses should’t throw stones.
– The vase, which I bought (it) years ago, is very valuable.
Defining relative clauses
In definiting relative clauses:
The relative clause defines or identifies the person, thing, time, place or reason
– Chris is the son of a woman who works in television.
– That’s the man whose son is an actor.
– Winter was the time when people tended to get insufficient fresh food.
– I know the place where the play is set.
– I can’t imagine why he would want to leave you.
That can be used instead of who or which
– The girl that (who) lives next door rides a motorbike.
– The sports centre that (which) is opening soon will offer great new facilities.
The relative pronoun can be left out if it is the object of the verb in the relative clauses
– The person (who/that) I spoke to yesterday said it would be free.
– Sue bought the watch (which/that) she’d seen.
No commas are used before and after the relative clause.
Non-defining relative clauses
The relative clauses gives extra information which can be omitted.
Commas are used before and after the relative clause.
The pronoun that cannot be used instead of who or which.
– The museum, where you can see Roman pottery, is free.
– The witness, who refused to be named, said the police had acted unwisely.
Prepositions in relative clauses
Prepositions can come before the relative pronoun or at the end of the relative clause, depending on whether the sentence is formal or informal.
– The person to whom I spoke told me the hotel was fully booked. (formal)
– John, who I bought my car from, has gone abroad. (informal)