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Relative clauses

Relative pronouns part 2

(See beginner worksheet for an introduction)

where, whose, whom

Relative clauses tell us what person or thing someone is talking about, or give us more information about that person or thing.

We use "where", "whose" and "whom" as relative pronouns to:
Example

We use "where" to talk about a place:

   

We use "whose" for possession; to replace possessive adjectives such as my, his, her, etc.:
   That’s the man whose dog bit me.

"Whose" can be used for people and things:
   That’s the school whose director was sacked for changing grades.

We can use "whom" instead of "who" when the object of the verb is in the relative clause, and also with prepositions:
   That’s the man whom I married.
   Marie is the woman with whom I work.

However, "whom" is a formal word and it is more usual to use "who" or "that":
   That’s the man who I married.
   Marie is the woman that I work with.

Practice

Complete the sentences with "where", "whose" or "whom":

  • Peter is the plumber my sister employed.
     
  • My father is the one car was stolen.
     
  • That’s the dog ear is hurt.
     
  • The Mermaid is the hotel we got married.
     

Relative clauses

There are two types of relative clause: defining and non-defining.

Example

  1. Defining relative clause

    The man lives next door to me.

    This sentence needs more information: "The man" refers to a specific man but, without further explanation, we cannot know which man the speaker is talking about:

    The man who wants to marry my sister lives next door to me.

    The defining relative clause in the sentence clarifies which man the speaker is talking about.
     
  2. Non-defining relative clause

    William Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets.

    This sentence stands alone because we know who the speaker is talking about. It is clearly stated: William Shakespeare. However, if we choose to add more information, we can, using a non-defining relative clause:

    William Shakespeare, who died in 1616, wrote 154 sonnets.

    The non-defining relative clause in this sentence gives us extra information.

Note that a non-defining relative clause is separated by commas.

Also, the relative pronoun that can only be used in a defining relative clause.

Practice

Should the relative clause in each sentence be separated by commas?



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Relative clauses without "who", "that", "which"

Sometimes we can leave out the relative pronouns "who", "that" and "which". We can do this when the relative pronoun is the object not the subject of the verb.

Example

Relative pronoun as subject:

   The dog which ran away has been found.

   In this sentence, "the dog" is the subject: "the dog ran away", therefore, we must use a relative pronoun. We cannot say:
   The dog ran away has been found.

Relative pronoun as object:

   The gentleman that I interviewed didn't speak any Spanish.
   I interviewed the gentleman.

   In this sentence, "the gentleman" or "that" is the object of the verb so we can leave it out:
   The gentleman I interviewed didn't speak any Spanish.

   The man who I saw on the bus was crying.
   I saw the man.
   The man I saw on the bus was crying.

   The flower which I picked in the park died.
   I picked the flower.
   The flower I picked in the park died.

Practice

Can we leave out the relative pronoun in these sentences?



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Further practice

Choose the correct option a, b, c or d:



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