Functions of relative pronouns

Relative pronouns such as which, that, who are used to join two relative clauses by relating antecedents. They relate things, persons, or animals to add extra information to main clause. Here, I have described functions of relative pronouns in detail.

Examples and use of relative pronouns”

  • Who : Whom, Whose
  • Which
  • That
  • What

Who, whom, whose are used for Nominative, Objective and Possessive cases respectively.

1. Examples of relative pronouns in sentence

  • Last week, I saw a movie, which was really inspiring. ( non-restructive clause)
  • I can’t forget that person who helped me in hospital.
  • Tree sheds leaves which release more water.

“Which, that, and what” are preferred to relate and refer things and animals.
Apart from this, following pattern is also function like relative pronouns:–

Who + so + ever = whosoever
Which + ever = whichever
What + so + ever = whatsoever
Who + ever = whosoever

2. Examples of functions of Relative pronouns

  • The pen which you gifted me, is now lost. (for thing)
  • The lake, which we saw last time, is totally dried. (for thing)
  • This is the bike that we used for riding. (for thing)
  • I always remember the people who helped us in need. (for person)
  • Equatorial forests, which are the storehouse of diverse species, are on the verge of degradation. (for thing)
  • I saw a sensitive person who was serving selflessly for poor people. (for person)
  • He is the man whose pocket was lost. (for person)

The same forms of relative pronouns are used to singular and plural, masculine and feminine.

3. “Use of who and whose”

For person, in the subjective or nominative case, that and who pronouns are used.
Whereas, in the possessive case only whose is preferred. Apart from this, in the objective case, whom or who along that is used.

  • He is the man who was complaining. (subject)
  • He is the man whose pocket was lost. (possessive)
  • He is the man whom we saw begging. (object)

“What” pronoun is commonly used for things in all cases – subjective, objective, and possessive.

4. “Use of which”

“Which” pronoun is also commonly used for things and animals.
Moreover, who, generally, used for person, but sometimes, it also preferred for animals.

There are a lot of animals which suffer from water scarcity in summer.

Relative pronouns are also classified in restrictive and continuative forms.
In the restrictive form, the clause introduced by a relative pronouns describes the antecedents more specifically.
However, non-restrictive or continuative form does not describe the antecedents more clear manner.

Equatorial forests, which are the storehouse of diverse species, are on the verge of degradation.

Here, if we drop the relative clause, the meaning of the sentence will not change drastically.

Functions of relative pronouns

  • Restrictive
  • Non-restrictive format.

In the restrictive form, comma is not essential, but in the non-restrictive form comma is essential before relative pronouns.

  • The animal, which he likes, could not be found in the nearby forest.
  • My dog, which I bought from a village, is no more now.

“That” as a relative pronouns,  cannot be used in the non-restrictive relative clause.
Most importantly, “which” relative pronoun is only used as a object of relative clause.
But, “who and that” are used as both subject and object

Now, it is clear that learning about the functions of relative pronouns is too important to enrich the knowledge about sentence formation in english language.

Changing personal pronouns in indirect speech

Difference between emphatic and reflexive pronouns

Difference between relative pronouns and adverbs