Relative Pronouns

What are Relative Pronouns ?

Relative Pronoun connect a clause or phrase to a noun or a pronoun.

They are used to refer to (or relate to) the noun or pronoun coming immediately before them and give additional information about them .

E.g. who, whom, whose, which, that, what, why, as etc.

The noun or pronoun for which a relative pronoun comes is called the Antecedent of relative pronoun.

I have found the coupon. I lost the coupon.
I have found the coupon which I lost. (which – relative pronoun; coupon – antecedent noun)

Here is the car. You lent me the car.
Here is the car that you lent me. (that – relative pronoun; car – antecedent noun)

The word ‘who’ does the work of a Pronoun and also that of a Conjunction (Conjunctive Pronoun).

But we still call it a Relative Pronoun because it refers to (or relates to) antecedent noun.

Agreement of the Relative Pronoun and its Antecedent

Concept 1

A Relative Pronoun must be of the same number and person as its Antecedent, which is a Noun or Pronoun (because a relative pronoun refers to that antecedent).

The girl who was disobedient was punished.
The girls who were disobedient were punished.

Concept 2

One of + plural noun - antecedent will be a plural noun, so it will take a plural verb

He is one of those who have come. (here antecedent is one of those, with the plural noun ‘those’ being the main antecedent. So, plural verb used.)

Only one of + plural noun - antecedent will be only one and not the plural noun, so it will take a singular verb.

He is only one of those who has come. (here antecedent is only one of those, with only one being the main antecedent. So, singular verb used.)

Subjective, Objective and Possessive cases of Relative Pronouns

Relative pronoun always begins a new clause. This clause is called a relative clause.

In the relative clause, the relative pronoun can be in subjective, objective or possessive case.

Concept 1

Relative Pronouns (whom/which/that) are used as an object in subordinate clause.

Pattern: Noun/Pronoun + Relative Pronoun (Object) + Subject + Helping verb + Main verb + …..

I have a daughter whom I love very much. (whom - relative pronoun and object of subordinate clause)

Concept 2

Main antecedent will never be in possessive case. Convert it into ‘of pattern’ if that is the case.

Pattern: Noun/Pronoun + Relative Pronoun + Noun/Pronoun

I liked Tom’s presentation who is a technical architect. (incorrect)
I like the presentation of Tom who is a technical architect. (correct)

But some Relative pronouns are used to express possession or relation.

The boy whose hair is long is my nephew.

Omission of the Relative Pronoun

We will consider two cases separately. The case where the Relative Pronoun:

  • is part of the object.

  • is part of the subject.

When relative pronoun is an object or part of an object

The relative pronoun is generally omitted when it would be in the objective case.

I am the king of all whom I survey.
I am the king of all I survey.

When relative pronoun is a subject or part of a subject

  • Antecedent + Relative Pronoun (we can omit it) + Subject + Verb + ……..

    The book which I lent you is hers.
    The book I lent you is hers. (book – antecedent; which – omitted; I – subject)
  • Antecedent + [Relative Pronoun + $V_1$ / $V_2$ /is/ am/are/was/were + $V_4$] (this can be changed into $V_4$)

    The girl who lives in California loves me the most.
    The girl living in California loves me the most. (girl – antecedent; ‘who lives’ replaced with ‘living’)

    The girl who is playing in shorts loves me the most.
    The girl playing in shorts loves me the most. (girl – antecedent; ‘who is playing’ replaced with ‘playing’)

Position of the Relative Pronoun

Relative pronoun comes just after its antecedent. To prevent ambiguity, the Relative Pronoun should be placed as near as possible to its Antecedent. Though there are some exceptions, e.g. in case of structural compulsions.

The girl was given a prize who had won the competition. (incorrect)
The girl who had won the competition was given a price. (correct)

If we misplace the clause having relative pronoun, it may even change the meaning of the sentence.
Compare the following sentences:
The boy who had an accident is the son of my friend, Mr. Tomar. (boy had an accident)
The boy is the son of my friend Mr. Tomar who had an accident. (Mr. Tomar had an accident)

Compound Relative Pronouns

Compound Relative Pronouns are the pronouns formed by adding ever or soever to who, which and what. It’s generally done for providing emphasis.

E.g. whoever (i.e. any person who), whosoever; whichever; whatever, whatsoever.

Whoever comes is welcome.
I will appoint whomsoever you select.
Whatever she does, she will face no repercussions.

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