Relative pronoun


Relative pronoun

A relative pronoun is a pronoun that marks a relative clause within a larger sentence. It is called a relative pronoun because it relates to the word that it modifies.

A relative pronoun links two clauses into a single complex clause. To this extent, it is similar in function to a subordinating conjunction. Unlike a conjunction, however, a relative pronoun stands in place of a noun. Compare:

:(1) "This is a house. Jack built this house.":(2) "This is the house that Jack built."

Sentence (2) consists of two clauses, a main clause ("This is the house") and a relative clause ("that Jack built"). The word "that" is a relative pronoun. Within the relative clause, the relative pronoun stands for the noun phrase it references in the main clause (its antecedent), which is one of the arguments of the verb in the relative clause. In the example, the argument is "the house", the direct object of "built".

Other arguments can be relativised using relative pronouns:

:Subject: "Jack is the boy who kissed Jenny.":Indirect object: "Jack is the boy to whom Jenny gave a gift.":Adpositional complement: "Jack built the house in which I now live.":Possessor: "Jack is the boy whose friend built my house."

Not all languages have relative pronouns. Those that do tend to use words which originally had other functions; for example, the English "which" is also an interrogative word. This suggests that relative pronouns might be a fairly late development in many languages.

In English, different pronouns are sometimes used if the antecedent is a human being, as opposed to a non-human or an inanimate object (as in "who"/"that"). In some languages, the relative pronoun is an invariable word.

:(5) "This is a bank. It is the only bank that would accept my identification.":(6) "She is a bank teller. She helped us open an account."

With the relative pronouns, sentences (5) and (6) would read like this:

:(7) "This is the only bank that would accept my identification.":(8) "She is the bank teller who helped us open an account."

In sentences (7) and (8), the words "that" and "who" are the relative pronouns. The word "that" is used because the bank is a thing; the word "who" is used because 'she' is a person.

ee also

*"For specific discussion of English usage:" English relative clauses or English grammar.
*Relative pronouns in Spanish

like who and whose and more


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  • relative pronoun — n technical a ↑pronoun such as who , which , or that by which a relative clause is connected to the rest of the sentence …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • relative pronoun — noun count LINGUISTICS a pronoun such as who, that, or which that introduces a RELATIVE CLAUSE in a sentence …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • relative pronoun — relative pronouns N COUNT A relative pronoun is a word such as who , that , or which that is used to introduce a relative clause. Whose , when , where , and why are generally called relative pronouns, though they are actually adverbs …   English dictionary

  • relative pronoun — noun a pronoun (as that or which or who ) that introduces a relative clause referring to some antecedent • Hypernyms: ↑pronoun * * * noun 1. : a pronoun (as who, which, that) that introduces a clause modifying an antecedent (as in the man who… …   Useful english dictionary

  • relative pronoun — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms relative pronoun : singular relative pronoun plural relative pronouns linguistics a pronoun such as who , that , or which that introduces a relative clause in a sentence …   English dictionary

  • relative pronoun — one of the pronouns who, whom, which, what, their compounds with ever or soever, or that used as the subordinating word to introduce a subordinate clause, esp. such a pronoun referring to an antecedent. Cf. definite relative pronoun, indefinite… …   Universalium

  • relative pronoun — noun A pronoun that introduces a relative clause and refers to an antecedent. The interrogative pronouns can be used as relative pronouns: what, which, who, whom, and whose …   Wiktionary

  • relative pronoun — /rɛlətɪv ˈproʊnaʊn/ (say reluhtiv prohnown) noun a pronoun with a relative function. See relative (def. 8a) …   Australian English dictionary

  • relative pronoun — noun (C) technical a pronoun such as who , which , or that by which a relative clause is connected to the rest of the sentence …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • ˌrelative ˈpronoun — noun [C] linguistics a pronoun such as ‘who , ‘that , or ‘which that introduces a RELATIVE CLAUSE …   Dictionary for writing and speaking English