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20.5 Using Relative Pronouns and Clauses

Learning Objectives

  1. Recognize noun and adjective clauses that begin with relative pronouns.
  2. Use appropriate relative pronouns in noun and adjective clauses.

Noun clauses can serve as subjects or objects and often begin with one of these relative pronouns: that, what, whatever, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, whomever, whose. Logically, you should use subjective case pronouns in noun clauses that function as subjects and objective case pronouns in noun clauses that function as objects. See Chapter 20 "Grammar", Section 20.3 "Choosing the Correct Pronoun and Noun Cases" for a review of pronoun cases.

Examples

Subjective Case Example: Joshua Tree National Park, which is in California, is named after a tree that is actually a member of the lily family.

Objective Case Example: A Joshua tree looks like neither its relative, the lily, nor the biblical figure, Joshua, whom the tree is said to be named after.

Adjective clauses modify nouns and pronouns that usually immediately precede the clauses. Adjective clauses often begin with these relative pronouns: that, which, who, whom, whose.

Example

The Mohave and the Colorado are the two deserts that meet in Joshua Tree National Park.

Often adjective clauses leave the relative pronoun implied, as in the following example: I couldn’t get the stain out of the pants (that) I wore to the party.

For more on how to punctuate clauses properly, see Chapter 18 "Punctuation", Section 18.1 "Using Commas Properly".

Key Takeaways

  • Many noun clauses begin with these relative pronouns: that, what, whatever, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, whomever, whose.
  • Noun clauses that begin with relative pronouns can serve as subjects or objects and require subject and object pronouns, respectively.
  • Many adjective clauses begin with these relative pronouns: that, which, who, whom, whose.

Exercise

  1. Complete these steps for the following sentences:

    • Use one of these relative pronouns to fill in each of the following blanks: that, what, whatever, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, whomever, whose.
    • Determine whether the clause that each relative pronoun introduces is a noun clause or an adjective clause.
    • For each noun clause, indicate whether it is subjective or objective case.
    1. The swimmer _______________ won the race had been sick all last week.
    2. Caley, _______________the coach thought would win her race, defaulted in the first lap.
    3. The dog _______________ ate your hot dog is behind the hose.
    4. The boy _______________ you saw is my brother.