Relative Pronouns: Definition, Examples, and Usage

Grammar is an essential component of the English language. As a writer, it’s crucial to understand the rules of grammar to communicate effectively. One of the most important aspects of English grammar is the use of pronouns. Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns in a sentence. Relative pronouns, in particular, play a significant role in English grammar. In this article, we will explore the concept of relative pronouns, their definition, examples, and usage in English grammar.

What is a Relative Pronoun?

A relative pronoun is a type of pronoun that introduces a subordinate clause and connects it to the main clause of a sentence. The subordinate clause contains additional information about a noun or pronoun in the main clause. The relative pronoun serves as a connector between the two clauses and allows the writer to avoid repeating the noun or pronoun in the subordinate clause.

Relative Pronouns Definition, Examples, and Usage

Types of Relative Pronouns:

There are five relative pronouns in English grammar: who, whom, whose, that, and which. Each of these pronouns is used in different contexts, depending on their grammatical function within the sentence.

  1. Who: Who is used to refer to people in both the subject and object positions.
  • Example 1: The woman who is standing over there is my sister. (subject position)
  • Example 2: The man whom I met yesterday is my boss. (object position)
  1. Whom: Whom is used to refer to people in the object position.
  • Example: The person whom I spoke to on the phone was very helpful.
  1. Whose: Whose is used to show possession and is used to refer to both people and things.
  • Example: The car whose engine was making strange noises was taken to the mechanic.
  1. That: That is used to refer to people or things in both the subject and object positions.
  • Example 1: The book that I read last night was very interesting. (subject position)
  • Example 2: The car that I bought is red. (object position)
  1. Which: Which is used to refer to things in both the subject and object positions.
  • Example 1: The movie, which I watched last night, was very entertaining. (subject position)
  • Example 2: The shirt, which I bought last week, is too small. (object position)

Examples of Relative Pronouns in Context:

To understand the usage of relative pronouns, let’s take a look at some examples.

  1. The dog that barks all night keeps the neighbors awake.

In this sentence, “that” is a relative pronoun connecting the subordinate clause “that barks all night” to the main clause “the dog keeps the neighbors awake.”

  1. The woman whom I met yesterday is a doctor.

In this sentence, “whom” is a relative pronoun referring to “the woman” in the object position.

  1. The book whose cover is torn is mine.

In this sentence, “whose” is a relative pronoun used to show possession.

  1. The movie, which won an Academy Award, was directed by Steven Spielberg.

In this sentence, “which” is a relative pronoun connecting the subordinate clause “which won an Academy Award” to the main clause “the movie was directed by Steven Spielberg.”

Usage of Relative Pronouns:

Relative pronouns are used to connect two clauses and provide additional information about a noun or pronoun in the main clause. They help avoid repetition and create more concise and coherent sentences.

Relative pronouns are commonly used in the following contexts:

  1. Defining Clauses: Relative pronouns are used to define a noun or pronoun in the main clause. The information in the subordinate clause is necessary to understand the meaning of the sentence.
  • Example: The person who stole my phone has been caught by the police.

In this sentence, the relative pronoun “who” is used to define the person who stole the phone. Without the relative pronoun, the sentence would be incomplete.

  1. Non-defining Clauses: Relative pronouns are also used to provide additional, non-essential information about a noun or pronoun in the main clause.
  • Example: My sister, who is a doctor, lives in New York.

In this sentence, the relative pronoun “who” is used to provide additional information about the speaker’s sister, but the information is not necessary to understand the main clause.

  1. Adjective Clauses: Relative pronouns are also used to create adjective clauses, which describe a noun or pronoun in the main clause.
  • Example: The car that I bought is brand new.

In this sentence, the relative pronoun “that” is used to create an adjective clause describing the noun “car.”

FAQs:

  • Q. What is the difference between “that” and “which”?
  • A. “That” is used to introduce defining clauses, while “which” is used to introduce non-defining clauses. Defining clauses are essential to the meaning of the sentence, while non-defining clauses are additional information that is not necessary to understand the main clause.
  • Q. Can “who” be used to refer to animals?
  • A. No, “who” is used to refer to people. For animals, “that” or “which” can be used.
  • Q. Is “whom” always used in the object position?
  • A. Yes, “whom” is always used in the object position.

Conclusion:

Relative pronouns are an essential part of English grammar, and they help writers create concise and coherent sentences. By using relative pronouns, writers can avoid repetition and provide additional information about a noun or pronoun in the main clause. Understanding the different types of relative pronouns and their usage is important for effective communication in written and spoken English. With the information provided in this article, you should be able to identify and use relative pronouns correctly in your writing.

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