Pronouns : Relative Pronouns

Relative Pronouns

 A relative pronoun is a pronoun that introduces an adjective clause.

In English, the relative pronouns are thatwhich, where, who, whomwhose.


  • Who and whom refer to people.
  • Which refers to things.
  • That and whose refer to people or things.

A relative pronoun is used to start an adjectival clause which describes a noun (also called a relative clause.).

The description comes after the noun to either identify it or give more information about it…

Identifying the noun
  • The man who invented zips became very rich.
  • I recognised  the car which was involved in the accident.
  • We did not see the dog that attacked our rabbit.

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.


Note : colloquially, that is often used to represent a person or people and who is used to represent an animal or animals; though neither is technically correct they seem to be commonly accepted… one for the Grammar Nazis, eh?

 Providing more information
  • My friend, whose birthday it is, will meet us at the cinema.
  • My dad’s car, which was covered in mud, was parked outside the house.
  • The elephant that was the biggest led the parade.
Who or whom?

The use who or whom depends upon whether the noun that is being replaces is the subject or the object of the verb. If the replaced noun is the subject of the sentence then we use who

  • The child who came first won a trophy.
  • The girl who was the teacher’s favourite was allowed out to play early.

if the replaced noun is the object of the sentence we use whom

  • The panel selected a winner, to whom they awarded the £5000 prize.
  • Phillip was the boy whom my mum really disliked.