Relative Pronouns – Examples & Rules

Relative pronouns are a class of pronouns that we regularly engage with. Pronouns are words or phrases that we use to replace the nouns in a sentence to make it short and prevent redundancy. Relative pronouns are used similarly, but some rules might get tricky while using them.

Pronouns are of different types. And all of them have distinct purposes and usage. Relative pronouns are a class of pronouns that we use to introduce a relative clause and produce a connection with an independent clause.

Let us understand how we can use relative pronouns and bring about the correct meaning of a sentence.

What are relative pronouns?

In a general sense, relative pronouns are words used to introduce a relative or dependent clause and connect that clause with an independent clause. It means it is a word that relates to the particular word or subject of the sentence that its relative clause modifies.

Relative pronouns can also be defined as adjective clauses. Because, like adjectives, relative pronouns try to provide some information about the subject it relates to. It identifies and describes the particular subject of the independent clause in a sentence.

The most common relative pronouns are – who, what, whom, which, whose, and that. Whenever we put these words in use, we connect them to an independent clause to provide specific information.

Let us understand with some examples;

  • The girl, whom I talked to last night, wants me to join her club.
  • The woman who won the first prize is here.
  • My new dress, which I bought from the mall, looks so good.

Usage of relative pronouns

Now we know that relative pronouns introduce an adjective clause.
And adjective clauses are always followed by a noun. Choosing which relative pronoun to use will depend on that noun used in the sentence.

For instance;

  • Who or whom refers to a person.
  • What generally refers to non-living things
  • That is used for people, animals, or things
  • Which is generally used for animals or things.

Different functions of relative pronouns

Relative pronouns are used in a sentence to convey different meanings. Its functions can be generally divided into three categories.

To show possession

Relative pronouns like whose are generally used to show possession. It relates to the noun or the subject of the sentence and indicates its possession of something. For example;

  • The girl whose dog just ran away is panicking.
  • The boy whose parents are wealthy is organizing the event.

To identify someone or something

Relative pronouns like who, which, and that usually identifies a person or a thing. For example;

  • The lady who called me last night is the owner of the store.
  • The man who got the prize has invited me to his party.

To provide additional or interesting facts about the noun

Relative pronouns, as mentioned earlier, also introduce adjective clauses. Which means they provide additional information about the noun or the subject. For example;

  • The boy, whom I used to talk to, is now the leader of our club.
  • The bike, which I was riding, suddenly ran out of fuel.

So we can see relative pronouns can be a little confusing sometimes. But they can be easy once you remember these points.

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