What is a Relative Pronoun? Definition, Examples, & Exercises

Relative pronoun definition: A relative pronoun is a type of pronoun that introduces a relative clause.

What is a Relative Pronoun?

A relative pronoun is a part of speech in that it is a word that replaces a noun. However, a relative pronoun begins a relative clause. A relative clause modifies a noun.

Relative Pronoun Example:

  • The man who was in line became frustrated.

In this sentence, “who” is the relative pronoun referring to “the man.” The relative pronoun introduces the relative clause “who was in line.”

Relative Pronoun List

Relative pronouns examples and quizzesIn English, there are only a few relative pronouns, so the list is pretty short. Here is a list of relative pronouns in English.

  • Who
  • Whom
  • That
  • Which
  • Whoever
  • Whomever
  • Whichever

Other Relative Pronoun Examples

His signature represents a good piece of business for Klopp, who knows the player well from his Bundesliga days. –The Telegraph

The Thursday night votes came after weeks of speculation that delegates would force a vote next week of the entire Republican National Convention over whether to allow delegates to vote for whichever presidential candidate they choose. –The Wall Street Journal

What Do Relative Pronouns Do?

what are english relative pronounsRelative pronouns introduce relative clauses. As such, they identify a noun and provide additional information about that noun.

Example:

  • The house that is under construction will be beautiful.

In this example, “that” is the relative pronoun referring to “the house.” “That” introduces the relative clause “that is under construction.”

The relative clause provides information about the house. In this case, the information is necessary to know to which house the speaker is referring.

Relative Pronouns for People and Things

Different relative pronouns are used for different nouns.

For people, use who and whom.

  • The baby who was born yesterday is precious.

For things, use which.

  • Our car, which we bought on Saturday, needs new brakes already.

“That” is a unique relative pronoun because it can be used for people and things. However, many writers only use “that” for things and “who/whom” for people.

  • The television anchor that is on Channel 4 is obnoxious.
  • The television anchor who is on Channel 4 is obnoxious.

If you are doing a bit of formal writing or business writing, you might want to reserve “that” for things.

Different Cases of Relative Pronouns

printable worksheet for relative pronounsRelative pronouns can take on different cases.

Subjective Case:

When the relative pronoun refers to a subject, use the subjective case.

  • who
    • A boy who is in my class is very tall.
      • The subject is boy; the relative pronoun refers to the subject
    • that
      • The clock that is on the wall makes a loud tick.
        • The subject is clock; the relative pronoun refers to the subject
      • which
        • His old toy, which is in poor shape, is his favorite.
          • The subject is “toy;” the relative pronoun refers to the subject

Objective Case:

When the relative pronoun refers to an object, use the objective case.

  • whom
    • Smith wants to be a teacher whom many people admire.
      • The object is “teacher;” the relative pronoun refers to the object
    • that
      • I picked up the ball that was in our yard.
        • The object is “ball;” the relative pronoun refers to the object
      • which
        • My mom cooked our favorite pasta dish, which we greatly enjoyed.
          • The object is “dish;” the relative pronoun refers to the object

Possessive Case:

  • whose
    • The painting on the wall, whose artist is unknown, imitates Impressionism.
      • The pronoun refers to the possession of the painting; the possessive case is necessary.
    • Jerry Seinfeld, whose sitcom is widely syndicated, is my favorite comedian.
      • The pronoun refers to the subject’s possession of the sitcom; the possessive case is necessary

Relative Pronoun Exercises

Here are a few practice sentences that you can use to test your knowledge of relative pronouns.

Choose the sentence that contains a relative pronoun.

  • A. Did you find your car?
  • B. There was someone at the show selling t-shirts.
  • C. The person who mowed our grass did a great job.
  • A. The teacher told her class to have a good summer.
  • B. The company that moved into town is hiring.
  • C. This soda was made by our own staff.

Select the correct relative pronoun for the following sentences.

  • The winners of the championship, ______ they may be, will receive prize money.
    • A. Whoever
    • B. Who
    • C. That
    • D. Which
  • If we go to the movies tonight, you can see ______ movie you would like.
    • A. Whoever
    • B. Whichever
    • C. That
    • D. Which

Summary: What are Relative Pronouns?

Define relative pronouns: The definition of relative pronoun is a pronoun that can link together independent and dependent clauses.

Relative pronouns refer to nouns. They add information and they always begin a relative clause. Different cases of relative pronouns are used depending on their placement and purpose within a sentence.

Answers:

  • C.
  • B.
  • A.
  • B.