Read the information below about using relative pronouns. Then, when you are ready, try these relative pronoun practice exercises.
Using relative pronouns
Relative pronouns are words like which, who and that. They can be used to link two sentences together by referring to a noun or idea in the first sentence.
Talking about things (which and that)
The relative pronoun that can refer to things in a defining relative clause (which is also possible):
She gave me some flowers. The flowers died the next day.
She gave me some flowers that died the next day.
Which is used after a comma (in a non-defining relative clause) to refer to things or a whole idea:
He remembered my birthday. This was really surprising (because he usually forgets).
He remembered my birthday, which was really surprising.
Talking about people (who, that and whom)
The relative pronouns who, that and whom refer to people. Who/that is used for the subject (he / she...) and whom is used for the object (him / her ...) and after prepositions, but a lot of English speakers now just use who for both. That is also generally considered less formal.
Nick married a doctor. He met her on holiday.
Nick married the doctor whom he met on holiday. (grammatically correct as it replaces her)
Nick married the doctor who/that he met on holiday. (not really correct, but very common)
Note that we always use whom after a preposition in non-defining relative clauses:
I met some actors. Most of them were Scottish.
I met some actors, most of whom were Scottish.
Other useful words for making relative clauses
Whose is used for possessives (to replace his/her/my ... + noun).
Nick married a doctor. Her father didn't like him.
Nick married a doctor whose father didn't like him.
Use where to talk about places (meaning in/on/at/to which).
I can't remember the house where I was born.
I can't remember the house in which I was born.
I can't remember the house which I was born in.
When is used for times (meaning in/on/at which).
My birthday is the only day when I eat cake.
My birthday is the only day on which I eat cake.
My birthday is the only day which I eat cake on.
Finally, we use what to mean the thing(s) that.
I liked the flowers that she gave me.
I liked what she gave me.
I remembered the things that he told me.
I remembered what he told me.
Now try these relative pronoun practice exercises.