Relative Pronouns — Definition, Clauses, and Examples
What is a relative pronoun?
A relative pronoun connects a clause to either a noun or pronoun. The clause or phrase modifies the noun that the pronoun connects. Common relative pronouns are “who”, “whom”, “whose”, “which”, and “that.” They are used to replace subject pronouns, show possession, or refer to objects, animals, and things.
|who||used for people; replaces subject pronouns such as I, she, he, we, and they|
|whom||replaces subject pronouns such as me, her, and him|
|which||used for objects and animals|
|that||used for things|
The relative adverbs "when" and "where" are occasionally used as relative pronouns as well.
|Occasional Relative Pronoun||Use|
|when||introduces clauses that modify a noun and refer to time|
|where||introduces clauses that modify a noun and refer to a place|
Relative pronoun examples
The following sentences include examples of relative pronouns:
The substitute who took Mrs. Jones' place is extremely friendly.
The house where Alex grew up is only three blocks away.
The time when you should consider switching majors is now.
The dog that was sleeping earlier is now very energetic.
The family spent time in Disney World, which is celebrating its anniversary.
Sarah, whose brother lives in New York, decided to spend a day in the city.
The artist whom you praised was quite popular in the 19th.
There are two types of relative clauses: defining and non-defining — Both types of relative clauses modify the main clause but in different ways.
Defining relative clauses
Defining relative clauses, also known as restrictive clauses, provide essential information about the antecedent that impacts the meaning of the sentence. These clauses describe a noun or pronoun, so they are also known as adjective clauses.
The following are some example sentences with defining relative clauses:
This is the student who won the academic scholarship.
People who like history enjoy going to the Smithsonian museums.
The band was given a list of performance dates that have sold out.
The restaurant where Jim met his wife is closing next month.
Non-defining relative clauses
Non-defining relative clauses, also called non-restrictive clauses, add nonessential, additional information. Removing these clauses would not affect the meaning of the sentence. Use commas to set the dependent clause apart from the rest of the sentence.
The following are some example sentences with non-defining relative clauses:
The flower, which sits on the windowpane, is starting to bloom again.
The movie, which was released last night, is receiving great reviews.
Adams, who spent all summer in California, is the new English teacher.
My brother, whose car I'm driving, visited a few colleges last week.