How to use relative pronouns  in English – Grammar Rules and Practice

EFL/ESL Grammar: rules, use, and practice

The use of relative pronouns  in English 

The man is sitting there. The man is my father.

Above, we have two sentences. Is there a possibility to have one sentence? Yes, there is. We have to join both of the sentences. We will have something like this: the man who is sitting there is my father.

What happened is that it will be redundant to have a sentence as: the man sitting there the man is my father. So, we had to use relative pronouns to avoid repetition and have one grammatical sentence.

What are Relative pronouns?

Relative pronouns are words that replace a noun or a pronoun. They are used to introduce the relative clause (which is a subordinate clause that modifies a noun). These are the most common pronouns in the English language: who, whom, where, when, that, whose, which, and why.

Relative pronouns and examples

Who and whom are used to refer to people. The difference is that we use (who) to refer to the subject and (whom) and to refer to the object. We also use That to refer to a person.


  • The man who gave you this is my uncle
  • The guy whom you gave the book is my brother.

 To understand the difference between (who/whom), you have to look at the sentences. “Whom” replaces the object (the guy) and “who” replaces the subject (the man).

I know the person that was sitting there.

Which is used to replace objects, things and activities. That is also used like which.


  • The book which I gave you is not mine.
  • The book that I gave you isn’t mine.
  • The color which I like is red.
  • The color that I like is red.

Whose is used to indicate possession.


  • The car whose color is red is mine. In this example, the color refers back to the car.
  • The woman whose coat is red is my aunt.

Why is used to refer to the reason


  • This is why I left you.
  • The reason why I failed is that didn’t prepare.

Where is used to refer to the place. 


  • Here is where I live.
  • The hotel where I stay is over there.

When is used to refer to the time.


  • The day when I met was Sunday, I guess.
  • They will come here when they get some money.
  • I will call her when I have time.


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