Relative Pronouns

A relative pronoun introduces an adjective clause. It can also be used to join two short sentences.

It's like the wedding officiant of pronouns.

Examples of relative pronouns include:
- Who
- Whom
- Whoever
- Whomever
- Whose
- That
- What
- Whatever
- Which

 

Examples

"Hand out these ravioli coupons to whomever you'd like."

Whomever begins an adjective clause that describes the recipients of the ravioli coupons. In our humble opinion, we should be the recipient of all the ravioli. All of it.

" The concert pianist whose arms were broken in a skiing accident had to cancel his remaining shows."

In this case, whose introduces the adjective clause (whose arms were broken in a skiing accident) that describes the unlucky pianist.

"Toby watched a documentary that was about marching penguins."

Here, that is a relative pronoun that begins the adjective clause (that was about marching penguins) that likely describes the documentary that was narrated by Morgan Freeman. Morgan Freeman narrates everything, sometimes on helium.

 

Common mistakes

Who's = who is. The end.

That vs. Which: what's the difference?

Thanks for asking.

Technically, you use the word that before a restrictive clause: anything you can't do without. If taking the clause out of the sentence would completely alter the meaning, then the clause is restrictive.

You use the word which before any other type of clause. If you can take it out of the sentence without altering the meaning a lot, then which is your best bet.

NB: You need a comma before which (because anything restrictive needs commas) and not before that.

Examples:

"A fresh bouquet of roses that smelled wonderful was sitting on the kitchen table."

OR

"A fresh bouquet of roses, which smelled wonderful, was sitting on the kitchen table."

The second sentence is correct because you could remove the clause which smelled wonderful and not affect the meaning of the sentence.

"That orchid was the one that smelled like chocolate."

OR

"That orchid was the one which smelled like chocolate."

Take out the clause "which smelled like chocolate," and you're left with… not a whole lot. That means it's a restrictive clause, and you need to use that. Also, talk about a great housewarming gift.

Yeppers.

Example:

"Check out that cactus whose arms are longer than its trunk!"

You might be tempted by "that's," but what you need here is a possessive pronoun, and the only meaning of "that's" is "that is."

Technically, you're supposed to use who when referring to people and that when referring to… not people.

Examples:

"They were talking about the Starbucks that was always packed."

"They were talking about the girl who never wore leggings."

Who for people; that for everything else. Depending on how much you love your pet collie, he might get a "who," too.