A relative clause is introduced by a Relative pronoun, it is also called a relative pronoun as it relates to the word which is modified by its relative clause. 

Let us understand with an example:

  • The woman who saw me on the balcony is my professor.

In the given example, the word ‘who’ relates to the person which is modified by ‘saw me on the balcony’. Not only this, but it also introduces the relative clause ‘saw me on the balcony’.

The five very basic relative pronouns are who, whom, whose, which, that.

The subject ‘who’ and the object ‘whom’ are usually used only for people. Whereas, the word ‘whose’ is used to define possession, the word ‘which’ is used for things, the word ‘that’ is used for things as well as people but only when we are defining a relative clause. 

Remember that the relative pronouns are able to refer to singular or plural, also there is no difference between a male and a female.

Let us understand with some examples:

  1. The woman who saw me on the balcony is my professor.

The woman that saw me on the balcony is my professor.

  1. The bike which hit her was black.

The bike that hit her was black.

  1. The student whose shoes are dirty must go outside the class.
  2. Students whose books are not covered must bring their parents tomorrow.

Note that all the grammar sources do not include the word ‘that’ as a relative pronoun. There are some people who say that the word ‘that’ must not be used while we talk about people, but instead, words like ‘who/whom’ must be used. 


Complete the following exercise on paper or on a book and keep it for your future reference.

  1. Who, whom, whose, which, that are five basic ________ pronouns. (personal, interrogative, relative)
  2. The bike _______ hit her was black. (who, her, that)
  3. Can relative pronouns refer to singular or plural? (Yes, No)
  4. A relative ______ is introduced by a relative pronoun. (noun, verb, clause)

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