Uses of The Relative Pronouns

Uses of The Relative Pronouns :


A Relative Pronoun not only refers to some Noun going before (as a Demonstrative Pronoun does), but, it also joins two sentences together (which a Demonstrative Pronoun does not do ). It is therefore a Conjunctive Pronoun.

1. This is an old house. I live in it. (Personal Pronoun)
2. This house, in which I live, is an old one. (Relative Pronoun)

The Noun (or its equivalent) to which the relative refers is called the Antecedent.

The Relative Pronouns are who, which, what and that. In certain circumstances as and but can also be used as Relative Pronouns.

Who & which :

The Relative Pronoun is most commonly expressed by WHO and WHICH.

1. Nominative Case - Masculine and Feminine - Singular and Plural - Who
2. Nominative Case – Neuter - Singular and Plural - Which
3. Accusative Case - Masculine and Feminine - Singular and Plural - Whom
4. Accusative Case – Neuter - Singular and Plural - Which
5. Dative Case - Masculine and Feminine - Singular and Plural - Whom
6. Dative Case – Neuter - Singular and Plural - Which
7. Genitive Case - Masculine and Feminine - Singular and Plural - Whose
8. Genitive Case – Neuter - Singular and Plural - Whose or of which

The most common form of genitive case for neuter gender is OF WHOSE.

But WHOSE has become very frequent in modern English.

The Masculine and Feminine forms are used for persons only. The neuter forms are used for inanimate things and for all things of animals except persons (men and women).

Uses of The Relative Pronouns :

WHO is used of persons such as…

1. The man who is honest is trusted by all.
2. He who is contented is rich.
3. They never fail who die in a great cause.
4. They also serve who only stand and wait.

WHOSE is used in speaking of persons, but sometimes of things without life such as….

1. This is the boy whose father won the Victoria Cross.
2. A triangle whose three sides are equal is called an equilateral triangle.

WHICH is used of lower animals and things without life such as….

1. The dog which barked at her did not bite her.
2. The book which was lost was not mine.
3. The moment which is lost is lost for ever.

Which may also refer to a Clause such as….

You have paid pour debts, which (= the fact that you have paid your debts) is a clear proof of your honesty.

Antecedent understood : When the antecedent is understood, the neuter Relative takes the form of WHAT, while the Masculine and Feminine retain the form of WHO.

1. Who = he who or she who or they who
2. Who (= he who) steals my purse, steals trash. (Shakespeare)
3. Whom (= those persons whom) the gods love, die young. (Proverb)

What = the thing which or the things which

1. I cannot tell you now what (= the thing which) has happened.
2. The laws are what (= the things which) you say they are.

So, ever, or so ever added to the Relative Pronoun or to Relative Adverbs gives the meaning of totality.

1. Whoever (= anyone who) wanted to go went.
2. Take whichever (= anything that)you like.
3. She did whatever (= anything that) she wished.

That : The Relative Pronoun THAT is often used for WHO, WHOM or WHICH, but never for WHOSE. It is applied both to persons and things.

1. Happy is the man that (= which) is content.
2. This is the house that (= which) Jack built.
3. The man that (= whom) we were looking for has come.
4. He that (= who) is not with us is against us.

The Relative Pronoun THAT is now used instead of WHO, WHOM or WHICH.

After the Superlative Degree of Adjectives such as….

1. He is the wisest man that I have ever met.
2. This is the best picture that 1 ever saw.

After the words all, same, none, (the) only such as….

1. All is not gold that glitters.
2. He is the same man that came here yesterday.
3. Man is the only animal that can laugh.

AS : The word AS can be used for a Relative Pronoun provided it is preceded by SUCH or AS or THE SAME. It may be in the Nominative or the Accusative Case, but not in the Genitive.

1. This is not such a good book as 1 expected.
2. You may ask as many questions as you please.
3. Yours is not the same book as mine (is).

After SUCH and AS, the word AS is always used. But after THE SAME, we often find that.

1. This is the same story that (= which) I heard ten years ago.
2. This is the same man that (= whom) I saw yesterday.

The use of AS and THAT after THE SAME is guided by the following rules.

When the verb is expressed after it, we generally use THAT.

When the verb is understood after it, we always use AS.

1. This is the same man that came yesterday. (Verb expressed)
2. This is not the same book as mine (is). (Verb understood)

BUT : The Conjunction BUT, when some Demonstrative Pronoun is understood after it, is used in the sense of WHO NOT or WHICH NOT.

There was no one present but saw (= but he saw = who did not see) the deed.

There is no ailment so simple but may (= but it may = which may not) become serious in time.

The two uses of WHO and WHICH

Restrictive and Continuative : These words denote two distinct uses of WHO or WHICH.

(a) The man who lived there died yesterday. (Restrictive)
(b) I found my friend who recognized me at once. (Continuative)

In (a) the Relative clause does the work of an Adjective to the Noun - MAN. Because it restricts the application of this Noun to that particular man who is said to have lived there.

In (b) the Relative clause WHO RECOGNISED ME AT ONCE has no restrictive force on the Noun - FRIEND. It simply continues what was said in the previous clause.

I found my friend and he (= who) recognised me at once.


  1. The Pronoun
  2. Pronouns
  3. Kinds of Pronouns
  4. Personal Pronouns
  5. Possessive Adjectives and Possessive Pronouns
  6. Possessive Adjectives
  7. Possessive Pronouns
  8. Reflexive Personal Pronouns
  9. Self-Pronouns
  10. Emphasizing Pronouns
  11. Uses of Reflexive Forms (Uses of Reflexive Pronouns)
  12. Demonstrative Pronouns
  13. Forms of Demonstrative Pronouns
  14. Antecedent Noun
  15. Indefinite Demonstrative Pronouns
  16. Conjunctive Pronouns
  17. Relative Pronouns
  18. The two uses of WHO and WHICH
  19. Restrictive uses of WHO and WHICH
  20. Continuative uses of WHO and WHICH
  21. Omission of Relative Pronoun
  22. Where to omit Relative Pronoun?
  23. Interrogative Pronouns
  24. Forms of Interrogatives Pronouns
  25. Exclamatory Pronouns
  26. Parsing Models for Nouns
  27. Parsing Models for Adjectives
  28. Parsing Models for Pronouns
  29. Sentences with Pronouns

Uses of The Relative Pronouns :

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