Relative Pronouns


Relative pronouns are an essential component of English grammar that connects two sentences in a concise manner. Understanding their usage can significantly improve your written and spoken English, providing continuity and connectivity. This tutorial discusses the concept of relative pronouns in detail including their types, usage, and some critical rules followed by illustrative examples.

What are Relative Pronouns?

Relative pronouns are words that introduce relative clauses. They can provide essential information about the noun preceding them and refer to it at the same time. The most common relative pronouns are ‘who’, ‘which’, ‘that’, ‘whom’ and ‘whose’.

Usage of ‘Who’

The relative pronoun ‘who’ is used to refer  people. For example:

  • He is the man who helped me yesterday.

Usage of ‘Which’

The relative pronoun ‘which’ is used to refer  things. For example:

  • This is the book which I bought last week.

Usage of ‘That’

The relative pronoun ‘that’ can refer to both people and things. For example:

  • The dog that bit me ran away.
  • She is the person that I admire most.

Usage of ‘Whom’

The relative pronoun ‘whom’ is used in more formal English or written English. It is used to refer  people when they are the object of the verb. For example:

  • Susan, whom I’ve known for years, is a brilliant actress.

Usage of ‘Whose’

The relative pronoun ‘whose’ is used to indicate possession. For example:

  • Jane, whose brother I know, is a lawyer.

Types of Relative Clauses

There are two types of relative clauses: Defining and Non-defining relative clauses.

Defining Relative Clauses

Defining relative clauses (also called essential relative clauses) provide necessary information to define who or what we are talking about. These types of sentences can’t be removed from the sentence without changing its meaning. For example:

  • The woman who lives next door is a doctor.
  • Do you see the cat that is sitting on the roof?

Non-defining Relative Clauses

Non-defining relative clauses (also called non-essential relative clauses) provide extra information about something. These types of sentences can be removed from the sentence without altering the meaning. For example:

  • My sister, who is studying in college, is visiting this weekend.
  • The computer, which was quite old, finally stopped working.

Important Rules of Using Relative Pronouns

Rule1: Who Vs Whom

“Who” is used as the subject of a clause, while “whom” is used as the object. For example:

  • Robert is the man who can help us.
  • Robert is the man whom I met yesterday.

Rule2: Use of ‘That’

When you are talking about something in general, you use ‘that’. For instance:

  • I don’t like cars that go very fast.

But if you are talking about a specific thing or person, use ‘who’ or ‘which’.

  • Your bike, which is in the garage, is green.

Rule3: ‘Whose’ for Possession

Use ‘whose’ when showing ownership or possession. It can refer to both people and things. But remember, for things, it is usually more common to use ‘of which’ instead of ‘whose’, especially in formal English. For example:

  • I know a man whose brother lives in New York.
  • This is the house the roof of which is red.


This tutorial provides a comprehensive guide to relative pronouns, one of the pillars of English grammar. Relative pronouns provide all-important ‘connective tissue’ between ideas in our sentences, making our communication clear and efficient. So, understanding them and using them correctly in the context will elevate your English communication skills.

Leave a Reply