Relative Pronouns

Rules and Examples

linking
The word "relative" means "connected with something."

Relative pronouns are a type of pronoun used to link different parts of a sentence.

Relative pronouns give more information about the subject or object of the sentence.

The Relative Pronouns:

  • who

  • whom

  • whose

  • whoever

  • whomever

  • which

  • that

  • what

  • whatever

  • whichever


Rules for relative pronouns

1. When referring to a person use Who, Whom, Whose, Whoever and Whomever

(We will look at the differences between who/whom and whoever/whomever in rules 3 and 4.)

Examples:
  • Who bought the brown dog?

    I am the one who bought the brown dog.

  • To whom were you speaking?

    Mrs. Smith is the teacher to whom I was speaking.

  • Whose house is at the end of the street?

    I do not know whose house is at the end of the street.

  • Whoever bought the car wants to speak with you.

  • My daughter can ask whomever she wishes to the dance.

couple dancing

2. When referring to a thing, place, or idea use Which, That, What, Whatever, and Whichever

Examples:
  • In which house do you live?

    I live in the blue house, which is three houses south of yours.

  • Did you see the dog that I bought?

    The dog that I bought is brown.

  • What should I wear to my interview?

    Your red dress is what you should wear.

  • Should I wear the green dress or the blue dress?

    Choose whichever dress you like.

    You can wear whatever you want.

    Whatever option you choose will be great!

woman in blue dress

3. Who vs. Whom

A) Use Who when referring to the subject of a sentence.

The subject of the sentence is the one doing the action.

Subject Pronouns relate to the subject of the sentence.
  • I
  • he
  • she
  • it
  • they
  • we
Examples:
  • Who rented the movie?

    Nick (He) rented the movie.

    Subject = Nick/He

    Action = rented

  • Who is your father?

    Fred (He) is my father.

    Subject = Fred/He

    Action = is

father

B) Use Whom when referring to the object of a sentence.

The object of a sentence receives the action.

Object pronouns relate to the object of the sentence.
  • me
  • him
  • her
  • it
  • them
  • us
Examples:
  • Whom did you call?

    I called John (him).

    Object = John/him

    Action = called

  • To whom did Mike address the letter?

    Mike addressed the letter to Mr. Jones (him).

    Object = Mr. Jones/him

    Action = addressed

writing a letter

4. Whoever vs. Whomever

A) Use Whoever when the sentence requires a subject pronoun as the answer.

Examples:
  • Whoever comes to the store today (They) will be entered into a drawing for $100.


  • Whoever arrives home first (He or She) should put the dog outside.

dog

B) Use whomever when the sentence requires an object pronoun as the answer.

Examples:
  • Whomever did you ask?

    I asked Sarah (her).

  • I would like to talk to whomever broke this chair.

    I would like to talk to them (whomever broke this chair).

broken chair

Note:

The words "whom" and "whomever" are not used very often in American English. Most Americans use the words "who" and "whoever" in most cases.

For example:
Instead of saying, "I would like to talk to whomever broke this chair."

Most Americans would say, "I would like to talk to whoever broke this chair."

Instead of saying, "Whom did you call?"

Most Americans would say, "Who did you call?"

It is important that you know the general rules of using who, whom, whoever, and whomever, but – when in doubt – stick with who and whoever most often. They will sound more natural in spoken American English.

women talking

These were the uses of Relative Pronouns. Now that you know them, it is time to practice! Read and do exercises.

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