Relative Pronouns — Definition, Clauses, and Examples

Daniel Bal
Written by
Daniel Bal
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Courtney Adamo
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Paul Mazzola

What is a relative pronoun?

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.

Relative pronouns list
Relative pronoun Use
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
whose shows possession
which used for objects and animals
that used for things

Relative pronouns list
Relative pronouns list

The relative adverbs "when" and "where" are occasionally used as relative pronouns as well.

Occasional relative pronouns list
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

Occasional relative pronouns
Occasional relative pronouns

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.

What is a relative pronoun
What is a relative pronoun

Relative clauses

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.

Defining relative clause definition
Defining relative clause definition

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.

Non-defining relative clause definition
Non-defining relative clause definition