There are five relative pronouns in English: who, whom, whose, that, and which. These pronouns are used to connect different clauses together. For example:
- Belen, who had starred in six plays before she turned seventeen, knew that she wanted to act on Broadway someday.
- The word who connects the phrase “had starred in six plays before she turned seventeen” to the rest of the sentence.
- My daughter wants to adopt the dog that doesn’t have a tail.
- The word that connects the phrase “doesn’t have a tail” to the rest of the sentence.
These pronouns behave differently from the other categories we’ve seen. However, they are pronouns, and it’s important to learn how they work.
Two of the biggest confusions with these pronouns are that vs. which and who vs. whom. The two following videos help with these:
That vs. Which
Who vs. Whom
Does the following paragraph use relative pronouns correctly? Explain why or why not for each relative pronoun.
(1) Katerina, whom had taken biology once already, was still struggling to keep the steps of cellular respiration straight. (2) She knew the process took place in animals, which take in oxygen and put out carbon dioxide. (3) She also knew that plants underwent the process of photosynthesis. (4) However, the individual steps of the process seemed beyond her understanding.
Sentence 1 has the relative pronoun whom. Whom is incorrect in this instance; the object case is not needed here. The sentence should start with “Katerina, who had taken biology once already. . . .”
In sentence 2, the relative pronoun which is used correctly. Which is appropriate to use with the noun animals, and the clause is set off with commas.
That is used correctly in sentence 3. It connects knew with what she knew.