The standard relative pronouns in English are which, that, who, whom, and whose. Who and whom refer only to people. Which refers to things, qualities, and ideas--never to people. That and whose refer to people, things, qualities, and ideas.
- Wh- Words
- Commonly Confused Words: Who, Which, and That
- Commonly Confused Words: Who and Whom
- Nonrestrictive Relative Clause and Restrictive Relative Clause
- Practice in Using Relative Pronouns With Adjective Clauses
- Relative Adverb
- Relative Pronouns and Adjective Clauses
- Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Adjective Clauses
- Subordination with Adjective Clauses
- Zero Relative Pronoun
Examples and Observations:
- "How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?"
(Charles De Gaulle)
- "On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done just as easily lying down."
- "An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support."
- "He was a Frenchman, a melancholy-looking man. He had the appearance of one who has searched for the leak in life's gas-pipe with a lighted candle; of one whom the clenched fist of Fate has smitten beneath the temperamental third waistcoat-button."
(P. G. Wodehouse, "The Man Who Disliked Cats")
- "The people who had it hardest during the first few months were young couples, many of whom had married just before the evacuation began, in order not to be separated and sent to different camps. . . . All they had to use for room dividers were those army blankets, two of which were barely enough to keep one person warm. They argued over whose blanket should be sacrificed and later argued about noise at night."
(Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, Farewell to Manzanar, 1973)
- "Even if you do learn to speak correct English, whom are you going to speak it to?"
- "Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own."
- "Franz Ferdinand would have gone from Sarajevo untouched had it not been for the actions of his staff, who by blunder after blunder contrived that his car should be slowed down and that he should be presented as a stationary target in front of Princip, the one conspirator of real and mature deliberation, who had finished his cup of coffee and was walking back through the streets, aghast at the failure of himself and his friends, which would expose the country to terrible punishment without having inflicted any loss on authority."
(Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia. Viking, 1941)
- Who, Which, That, and the Zero Relativizer
"Three relative pronouns stand out as being particularly common in English: who, which, and that. The zero relativizer [or dropped relative pronoun] is also relatively common. However, . . . the relative pronouns are used in very different ways across registers. For example:
- That and zero are the preferred choices in conversation, although relative clauses are generally rare in that register.
- Fiction is similar to conversation in its preference for that.
- In contrast, news shows a much stronger preference for which and who, and academic prose strongly prefers which.
(Douglas Biber, Susan Conrad, and Geoffrey Leech, Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Pearson, 2002)