Rewrite the following sentences using relative clauses.
The girl is very attractive. You were chatting her up last night.
The girl (that/whom) you were chatting up last night is very attractive.
The couple are stinking rich. They are sitting beside the loudspeakers.
The couple who/that are sitting beside the loudspeaker are stinking rich.
The man is my boss. His wife is fanning herself with the newspaper.
The man whose wife is fanning herself with the newspaper is my boss.
We place the relative clause after its antecedent
. As you can see in the examples above, we have replaced the words her, they
with the appropriate relative form. Observe that her
is an object pronoun; they
, a subject one; his
, a possessive adjective. In the first case, we need an object relative pronoun
; in the second, a subject relative pronoun: who/that
; in the third, a possessive relative determiner: whose
The hooligans are dangerous criminals. They were arrested last night.
The boy wets the bed. He lives next door.
The boy had a crush on her. His overcoat is filthy.
The woman is a diver. Her hair is wavy.
The spinster wants to marry eagerly. You met her three days ago.
(defining: things and animals)
She bought a bungalow. It was very expensive.
She bought a bungalow which/that was very expensive.
The bungalow (which/that) she bought was very expensive.
She lives in a semi-detached house. She inherited it from her parents.
She lives in a semi-detached house (which/that) she inherited from her parents.
He lives in a detached house. Its garden looks terrific.
He lives in a detached house the garden of which looks terrific.
He lives in a detached house whose garden looks terrific.
(more formal) and that
can act as subjects and as objects, but that
is preferred after indefinite pronouns, superlatives and ordinal numbers
I didn't understand everything. He said it at the conference hall.
I didn't understand everything (that) he said at the conference hall.
He wants to tell you something. It is very important.
He wants to tell you something that is very important
As for the possessive relative of which
, it is a much better alternative in formal situations than whose
for inanimate things. Both whose
and of which
can be used for animals, but whose
is probably commoner:
He saw a dog. Its tail had been cut off.
He saw a dog whose tail had been cut off/He saw a dog the tail of which had been cut off.
The spaghetti tasted delicious. We ate it yesterday.
The salad tasted great. You dressed it with homemade vinegar and olive oil.
He wants to catch the rabbit. This rabbit eats the vegetables in his garden.
This is the most interesting story. You have never told me such an interesting story.
The car belongs to Mr Jones. Its bonnet has a few dents.
(defining with prepositions)
The person is quite adamant about letting people smoke in his car. I was talking to him last night.
The person (that/whom) I was talking to last night is quite adamant about letting people smoke in his car.
The person to whom I was talking last night is quite adamant about letting people smoke in his car.
The bus broke down. I was on the bus.
The bus (which/that) I was on broke down.
The bus on which I was broke down.
We normally put the preposition at the end of the relative clause, and the relative pronoun may be omitted. In a very formal context, we can put the preposition before the relative pronoun. In this case, the relative pronoun can never be removed, and whom
(for people) and which
(for things or animals) must be used. Unfortunately, this sounds awkward at times or is impossible:
The girl was very fit and healthy. We encouraged her to go on.
The girl (whom/that) we encouraged to go on was very fit and healthy.
(Not The girl on whom we encouraged to go was very fit and healthy
, because on
is not a preposition here, but an adverb.)
The girl, who was very fit and heathy, was encouraged to go on.
(For the use of commas, see the next sections.)
These are the documents. I came across them in the living room drawer last night.
These are the documents (which/that) I came across in the living room drawer last night
. (Come across
is considered as one word, since the meaning changes if we omit "across". Consequently, "across" should not be separated from "come". However, there are cases in which this is possible: I found the person for whom I was looking
. None the less, this sounds too formal and is avoided in speech.)
The table was very antique. We were sitting at that table.
The criminal was taken to gaol. She was robbed by him.
The woman was the wife of a very important politician. He had an affair with her.
The TV programme is off. I told you about it yesterday.
This is the spade. I was looking for it.
4 Revision exercise.
The lady is our sales director. She has just turned round.
These pills are for drug addicts. They want to come off drugs.
The car is mine. Its bodywork is in a bad state.
She showed me something. She got it from an antique shop.
The secretary is a stunner. She ushered me into Mr Goldsmith's office.
The stain won't come out. You have this stain on your jacket.
She was swept off her feet by a boy. He saved her life.
The uncle is very old-fashioned. He came home last night.
The ship was travelling north. They were on the ship.
The buttons are too small. You bought them yesterday.
The pullover is the very latest. He has the pullover on.
The old dog has just pegged out. Its owner painted a portrait of your mother the day before yesterday.
I cut the branch. I stumbled on this branch.
The children are very naughty. Their mother teaches history at the local school.
The old man has a terrible cold. He came into the inn wet to the skin.
The mussels were delicious. You cooked them last week.
The jersey was naff. Her mother had knitted it for her.
They are going to pull down the house. Its roof is black.
I saw an indigent. His hand was badly burnt.
Everyone says it is excellent. They are at the première.
The last person was a fifty-year-old woman. He saw her.
The old lady has been across the world. She has a lot of pets.
The inn had central heating. We stayed at that inn.
She's the most charming girl. I don't know any other girls as charming as she is.
This is the horse. Mary rides it.
The boy is very polite. She's going out with him tonight.
(defining and non-defining relative clauses)
The student reads broadsheet newspapers. She's sitting next to Alexis.
The student who/that is sitting next to Alexis reads broadsheet newspapers.
Edith reads broadsheets newspapers. She is sitting next to Alexis.
Edith, who is sitting next to Alexis, reads broadsheet newspapers.
The stranger comes from France. You met him yesterday.
The stranger (that/whom) you met yesterday comes from France.
The stranger in black comes from France. You met him yesterday.
The stranger in black, whom you met yesterday, comes from France.
The lady firmly believes in progress. Her husband works with you.
The lady whose husband works with you firmly believes in progress.
The lady over there firmly believes in progress. Her husband works with you.
The lady over there, whose husband works with you, firmly believes in progress.
The cat scratched him. You often feed it.
The cat (that/which) you often feed scratched him.
Sandra's cat scratched him. You often feed it.
Sandra's cat, which you often feed, scratched him.
The cemetery looks gloomy. It dates from the seventeenth century.
The cemetery which/that dates from the seventeenth century looks gloomy.
This cemetery looks gloomy. It dates back to the seventeenth century.
This cemetery, which dates back to the seventeenth century, looks gloomy.
The dog was run over by a lorry last night. Its coat and (its) eyes were beautiful.
The dog whose coat and (whose) eyes were beautiful was run over by a lorry last night.
Her dog was run over by a lorry last night. Its coat and (its) eyes were beautiful.
Her dog, whose coat and (whose) eyes were beautiful, was run over by a lorry last night.
The graveyard is in a poor condition. Its walls were put up by my great-grandfather.
The graveyard the walls of which were put up by my great-granfather is in poor condition.
This graveyard is in poor condition. Its walls were put up by my great-grandfather.
This graveyard, the walls of which/whose walls were put up by my great-granfather, is in a poor condition.
When the antecedent does not give us enough information, we do not put commas. Commas are only used when the information provided by the relative clause is not needed. As a result, we may remove the relative clause. For instance, the antecedent "the student" is very ambiguous. Hence the relative clause is required to determine it: The student who is sitting next to Alexis...
In this case, we know which student we are referring to: Not all the students in the class, but the one sitting next to Alexis. But if we say "Edith" (instead of the student"), there is no necessity to use "who is sitting next to Alexis", as we already know which student we are talking about, that is, "Edith" provide us with enough information.
is not posssible with non-defining relative clauses, ie the ones with commas. The relatives pronouns whom
cannot be left out.
Non-defining relative clauses are formal and not very usual in speech. For this reason, when there is a preposition
, it usually goes before the relative pronoun:
His job is very important to him. He has devoted all his life to it.
His job, to which he has devoted all his life, is very important to him.
(Or less formally, His job, which he has devoted all his life to, is very important to him.
Mrs Brown is a very good lawyer. I have an appointment with her this afternoon.
Mrs Brown, with whom I have an appointment this afternoon, is a very good lawyer.
(Or less formally, Mrs Brown, whom I have an appointment with this afternoon, is a very good lawyer.
Observe the following:
Paris is a marvellous place. I spent two years of my life in Paris.
Paris, in which city I spent two years of my life, is a marvellous place.
(For more details, see section 13
in this unit.)
Paris, where I spent two years of my life, is a marvellous place.
(For further information about the relative pronoun where, see section 13
We reached a deal. Under this, we shall increase our annual profits.
We reached a deal under which we shall increase our annual profits.
(In this case, the preposition may not be moved to the end of the relative clause.)
The deal (that/which) we reached will increase our annual profits.
Don Quixote is a send-up of chivalry novels. It was written by Cervantes.
The police suspected us of being spies. They were harassing us constantly.
The examination was as easy as ABC. We did it yesterday.
The main character in this novel is a tax-collector. He is very evil.
The policewoman had four children. She was murdered by a gang of terrorists.
She arrived home very late. This annoyed her parents.
She arrived home very late, which annoyed her parents.
He gave the secretary a memo. She handed it over to the boss.
He gave the secretary a memo, who handed it over to the boss.
Co-ordinating relative clauses are a subclass of non-defining relative clauses. They do not describe their antecedents, but give extra information about it. Compare the following:
Adam, who is in hospital, wants to see you immediately.
He gave the secretary a memo, who handed it over to the boss.
The two sentences give us additional information about their antecedents, but there is a difference between them: the first one tells us something about its antencedent, but the second one does not: it simply relates an action or a fact of the antecedent. They can also refer to the whole sentence: She arrived home very late, which annoyed her parents
. Last but not least, that
is impossible here, and commas must be used.
She told him that she loved him. This made him feel nervous.
Everything went according to plan. This pleased them a lot.
I told the whole matter to the police, but they said it wasn't their business.
I offered them my help. They rejected it.
The new album outsells all their other works. This will make them one of the most popular bands in the world.
7 Complete the following tables:
Definig relative clauses: people
Defining relative clauses: things and animals
Non-defining and co-ordinating relative clauses: people
Non-defining and co-ordinating relative clauses: things and animals
8 Revision exercise.
The runner is my workmate. He is in the lead now.
The lawyer has one foot in the grave. He worked for my father twenty years ago.
We are going through a crisis. In this crisis, many employers will have to close down.
They married her daughter to a man. He was twice her age and very wealthy.
The man was an old crock. They married her daughter to him.
He told her that she got what she deserved. This annoyed her very much.
The woman is an ardent feminist. Her husband is a member ofthe golf club.
Sir Thomas's cavalry saved their lives. He did not die in vain.
But for him, our siblings would not be alive now. This is why we will never forget him.
They set fire to the barracks. This angered the captain.
My grandmother is very old. She suffers from senile dementia.
Her sister always gets out of bed on the wrong side. He's very fond of her.
The children were very afraid of lightning. They're neighbours of ours.
Someone nicked the silver cutlery set. They knew the house very well.
That old man thinks women should stay at home and take care of their children. He has outworn ideas.
We put our trust in them. This was the silliest thing to do.
Margaret was madly in love with him. She did not want to tell the truth.
Susie is a friend of my daughter's. She's swinging on the old rope.
The people next door very often go to posh restaurants. They come from well-to-do families.
Her father gave her a lecture about the importance of getting home early. He didn't want her daughter to arrive home late.
The little girls are my nieces. They're riding on the swings.
The man is forty years of age. He runs this company.
Mrs Brown has a crick in the neck. She hasn't come to work today.
The print cartridge is faulty. We bought it yesterday afternoon.
Big cities' smog should be reduced. It's very bad for people's health.
Miss Perkins is very pessimistic about her future. You teach her biology.
New York is very cosmopolitan. She would like to live in that city.
There were a lot of passers-by in the street. Most of them were in a hurry.
There were a lot of passers-by in the street, most of whom were in a hurry.
Eight guests could not come to the reception. Two of them were in bed with influenza.
Eight guests, two of whom were in bed with influenza, could not come to the reception.
There were five clocks in the house. One of them was broken.
There were five clocks in the house, one of which was broken.
As seen above, when we have the following combination: a pronoun
(most, one, etc.) + of + them/it
, we place a comma before the pronoun, and instead of them
, we write whom
(for people) or which
(for things or animals).
I saw several paintings and sculptures by Michelangelo Buanarroti. All of them were superb.
There were nearly fifty people at the party. The majority
of them were wearing informal clothes.
He collects cuckoo clocks. Some of them cost him a fortune.
He borrowed a lot of books from the library. A few of them were on medieval history.
This library loans art books. Most of them are about the Middle Ages.
She congratulated me on having passed all the tests. She was the first person to do this.
She was the first person to congratulate me on having passed all the tests.
She was the first person that congratulated me on having passed all the tests.
I need a room of my own. I need to study there/in this room.
I need a room of my own in which to study.
I need a room of my own to study in.
After ordinal numbers
or expressions such as "the only", we can use that
or an infinitive. The infinitive construction
is also common when we have a preposition in the relative clause. Note the following:
There are a lot of letters. He must write them.
There are a lot of letters for him to write.
Aldrin, Collins and Amstrong landed on the moon. They were the first people.
Mary rang me up. She was the only person to do this.
There are a lot of things. We can eat them at home.
He has nobody. Nobody wants to go out with him.
He has a lot of homework. He must do it for tomorrow.
Note the following construction: He who wants to eat sits down to the table.
The object relative pronoun may be dropped. Who
, instead of whom
, sometimes occurs in conversation.
is a much better alternative than that
, but that
is far more common than who
after indefinite pronouns, superlatives and ordinal numbers:
Everybody loves pasta. They should go to an Italian restaurant.
Everybody that loves pasta should go to an Italian restaurant.
The first people brought me a present. They arrived at the party.
The first people that arrive at the party brought me
a present. (subject)
The first people to arrive at the party brought me a present.
(See section 10 in this unit.
They are the best workers. He has never had such good workers.
They are the best workers (that) he has ever had.
is unusual here.)
Other alternatives to this:
The semi-detached house (that) she lives in was inherited from her parents.
The semi-detached house where/in which she lives was inherited from her parents.
See the previous section (footnote 3)
and section 10
In this particular case, we could have said He wants to tell you something important.
can sometimes be avoided, as in the following examples:
The detached house (that) he lives in has a garden that looks terrific.
The detached house where/in which he lives has a garden that looks terrific.
The detached house (that) he lives in has a terrific garden.
The detached house where/in which he lives has a terrific garden.
Here, we could have said The dog (that/which) he saw had its tail cut off.
This alternative is much better than the one with whose
(at least in formal contexts): The graveyard whose walls were put up by my great-grandfather is in poor condition.
See section 2 in this unit
See the previous footnote
See also section 3 in this unit
is a relative determiner here. The preposition cannot be put at the end.
Also called connective relative clauses.
Note also that the relative clause is placed after "a memo", not after "the secretary", which is its antecedent. We could have also said He gave a memo to the secretary, who handed it over to the boss.
Note that "majority" is a noun, not a pronoun.
See sections 1 (footnote, 3)
in this unit.
Note the following:
Which bus do I have to take?
I don't know which bus to take/I don't know which bus I have to take.
Who(m) are they going to invite to their wedding?
They still don't know who(m) to invite to their wedding/They still don't know who(m) they are going to invite to their wedding.
There are a lot of letters (that) he must write
is possible, but much less usual.