Relative Pronouns, Definition and Examples

English Relative Pronouns, Definition and Examples


English Relative Pronouns, Definition and Examples

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns is the phrase that makes an additional explanation about a word in the sentence. Relative pronouns are not a sentence alone, they are side sentences that characterize a noun in the sentence. Different “relative pronouns” are used when describing the subject, object, or word of ownership of the sentence.

It is important to pay attention to this sentence so that the sentence is complete and perfect in terms of grammar and comes right after the described word.

Relative Pronoun Modifying The Object Of The Sentence

Such relative pronouns characterize the subject of the sentence. These;

Who: As it is known, means pronoun. Relative pronouns, if it qualifies a person, comes after the who is qualified. For example;

  • The president is 50 years old.
  • He is a friendly a man.

Let’s connect these two sentences together;

  • The president who is 50 years old, is a friendly man.

As it is seen, when we make relative pronouns using “who”, the subject of the sentence “he” is not used again. The “who” pronoun replaces “he”. It connects two sentences. This is the same for all other species.

  • Your teacher does not discriminate her students.
  • She teaches you English.

(Your teacher who teaches you English does not discriminate her students.)

It is also possible to combine these two sentences in another way:

(Your teacher, who does not discriminate her students, teaches you English.)

  • My mother is clumsy.
  • She broke her arm last week.

We can combine these two sentences in two different ways;

  • My mother, who is clumsy, broke her arm last year.
  • My mother, who broke her arm last year is clumsy.

Which: Used when describing a situation, event or item. What is described is the item, concept, place, animal, etc. But it cannot be human. “Which” is used when describing both the subject and the object of the sentence. Just after “who” comes after the word or sentence described. Relative pronouns can sometimes characterize not only a single word but also an entire sentence. Please examine the examples and explanations below;

  • I saw a black dog.
  • It brings bad luck.

(I saw a black dog, which brings bad luck.)

In this sentence, relative pronouns can characterize both the word and the entire sentence, depending on your perspective. Namely;

  • I saw a black dog which brings bad luck.


  • I saw a black dog which brings bad luck.

In other words, the “relative pronouns” part of the sentence may only qualify the dog, or it may also qualify to see a dog. In this respect, this sentence is a good example to understand the difference. Also, the fact that the sentence is active or passive is not important for relative pronouns. For example;

  • This museum was built in 1689.
  • It is a significant landmark of this village.

(This museum, which is a significant landmark of this village, was built in 1689.)

(This museum, which was built in 1689, is a significant landmark of this village.)

In some cases, “that” can be used instead of “who” and “which”, but it is not necessary.

  • You met the girls.
  • You were really cute.

The people that you met yesterday were really cute. (In this sentence, another word may be used instead of “that” because the “the grils” in the sentence “you met the girls” is an object, not a subject.

Relative Pronoun Modifying The Object Of The Sentence

These relative pronouns will be briefly discussed here, as “which” and “that” are mentioned above. Because there is no change in the structure. The main thing is the change that occurs when characterizing a person in the subject position and when describing a person in the object position.

Which: It is used when describing situations other than human. For example;

  • You saw a cat which was wounded.
  • The doors which kids broke, cost a fortune.

That: who and which is used instead. For example;

  • The doors that kids broke cost a fortune.

Whom: Used when describing people who are objects of the sentence. In order not to confuse, you can apply a technique like this; Make the relative pronouns sentence a separate sentence and see what you use instead of “whom” in this sentence. To fully grasp the differences between “who” and “who” and to use the right one without thinking while talking, it is necessary to practice and practice a lot of this, but you can use this method to distinguish it until it reaches that level.

Relative Pronoun Modifying Possession

Whose: This question word is frequently used in English. But it is also used when qualifying relative pronouns. For example;

  • A new boy attended the course.
  • His eyes are stunning.

(A new boy whose eyes are stunning, attended the course.)

  • England is a beautiful country.
  • Its capital city is London.

(England, whose capital city is London is a beautiful country.)

“Whose” relative pronoun does not necessarily have to be used for what people have. They are used for anything that reports ownership. It can be a person, a country, an item, an animal or a plant.

Relative Pronoun Modifying Time

When: Used after words describing time. For example;

  • 1985 was the year when you was born.
  • Thursday is the day when he goes jogging.

Some words that we usually use when specifying time may in some cases not actually. For example, in the sentences above, these words indicate time, the important thing in the sentences above is the “time” when something happens.

  • Thursday is the day when he goes jogging.

In this sentence, “Thursday” does not specify time. The sentence does not mention anything that happened that day.

If you are going to install relative pronouns with a word indicating time and you don’t know whether to use “when” or “which / that”, consider the sentence as relative pronouns. When specifying time in English, a time editorial is definitely used; in, on, like a horse.

When you remove and install the sentence from the relative pronouns structure, if you used a time proof before the time-expressing word or if you can use “then” instead of that word, that word is a time envelope and you should use “when” to describe that word.

Relative Pronoun Modifying Place

Where: Used after the words that indicate the place. The word must absolutely specify the location, because the name of a city or country is mentioned in a sentence, it does not necessarily have to indicate the location. We will also touch on this issue with examples.

  • New York is one the most beautiful cities in USA.
  • I live in New York.

(New York, where I live, is one of the most beautiful cities in USA.)