A Complete Guide to Using Relative Clauses and Pronouns in English

A Complete Guide to Using Relative Clauses and Pronouns in English

Relative clauses are parts of a sentence that add more information about something mentioned before. This post focuses on active relative clauses, which are important for making sentences clear. They usually start with words like who, which that, and whose.’ These clauses help us specify exactly what or who we are talking about, avoiding confusion. This blog post will help English learners understand and use these Relative clauses in grammar confidently, improving their language skills.

A Complete Guide to Using Relative Clauses and Pronouns in English

A Complete Guide to Using Relative Clauses and Pronouns in English

Relative Pronouns Words:

Relative Clause Type Subject Object Possessive
Pronoun who who/whom whose
Object which whose
Determiner that that

What Are Relative Clauses?

Relative clauses are groups of words that give us more information about a noun. They start with words like who, which, that, or whose. These word groups act like adjectives and make our sentences more informative.

  • The woman who lives next door is a teacher.
  • John’s car, which is red, is parked in the driveway.
  • The dog that barks loudly is my neighbor’s pet.

Different Types of Relative Clauses

There are two main types: restrictive (defining) and non-restrictive (non-defining).

1. Restrictive (Defining) Relative Clauses

These clauses are used to provide important information about the noun. You can’t take them out of the sentence without changing what it means.

  • The book that I borrowed is on the table.
  • The man who is wearing a hat is my uncle.
  • The cat that chased the mouse is fast.

2. Non-Restrictive (Non-Defining) Relative Clauses

Non-restrictive clauses are used to give extra information in a sentence. They’re set apart with commas.

  • My sister’s car, which she bought last year, is in the garage.
  • The dog, who is very friendly, loves to play in the park.
  • My sister, who lives in Paris, is coming to visit.

More About Defining & Non-Defining Relative Clauses

Defining Relative Clauses:
Defining relative clauses, also known as restrictive relative clauses, are used to provide essential information about the noun they modify in a sentence. These clauses are quite helpful to identify or specify the noun, and without them, the meaning of the sentence might be unclear or incomplete. They are closely connected to the main sentence and are not set off by commas.

  • The book that I borrowed is on the table.
  • The cat that chased the mouse is fast.
  • The book that is on the table is mine.

Non-Defining Relative Clauses:
Non-defining relative clauses, also known as non-restrictive relative clauses, are used to provide additional, non-essential information about the noun they modify. These clauses add extra details that are not crucial to the sentence’s overall meaning. Non-defining relative clauses are start by commas and can often be removed from the sentence without significantly affecting its core meaning.

  • My sister, who is an excellent musician, is performing tonight.
  • The building, which was built in the 19th century, is a historic landmark
  • The car, which belongs to my neighbor, is parked in front of our house.

Differences Between Defining and Non-defining Relative Clauses:

Essential vs. Non-Essential Information:
Defining relative clauses are used to provide essential information and are needed to specify or identify the noun. Non-defining relative clauses provide non-essential, additional information that can be removed without changing the core meaning of the sentence.

Defining relative clauses do not start by commas and are tightly joined into the sentence. Non-defining relative clauses are covered by commas and are somewhat separate from the main sentence.

Defining: The car that I bought is red.
Non-defining: My car, which I bought last week, is red.

Defining and Non-Defining Relative Clauses

Relative Pronouns

Relative clauses start with relative pronouns. The choice depends on the noun being described. The common ones are who, which, that, and whose.


  • The person who helped me was my teacher.
  • The book which I read was fantastic.
  • The car that I drive is green.
  • The man whose wallet was lost has arrived.

Combining Relative Clauses
Sometimes, we have sentences with more than one relative clause. You need to understand how they work together.

  • The house, which is painted blue, sits on the corner.
  • The woman who lives next door is a doctor.
  • The book that you lent me is fascinating.

Using Prepositions with Relative Clauses

Location and Prepositions:
Prepositions often play a crucial role in indicating the location or place where something happens. When you use a relative clause to describe a noun’s location, the preposition in question helps provide that context.

  • The city in which I was born is beautiful.
  • The park by which we used to play soccer:
  • The restaurant next to which they built a new mall: “

Time and Prepositions:
Prepositions can also be used to indicate time-related information. In conjunction with relative clauses, they specify when an event occurred or when a particular noun is relevant.

  • The day on which we met was memorable.
  • The party during which we celebrated her birthday:
  • The vacation after which we returned home:

Method or Basis:
Prepositions like on, by,  and  with are often used to describe the method, basis, or means by which something is done or the foundation of an idea or action.

  • The report on which I based my decision was comprehensive.
  • The criteria on which we evaluate job applicants:
  • The principles according to which we operate our business:

Common Prepositions with Relative Clauses
Several prepositions are frequently used in conjunction with relative clauses to convey various types of information.

  • In:
    Used for indicating location or the place where something occurs.
  • On:
    Often used to indicate a surface, a basis, or a specific time.
  • At:
    Indicates a specific location or a particular time.
  • By:
    Shows the means, method, or agent responsible for something.
  • With:
    Indicates association, possession, or accompaniment.
  • For:
    Demonstrates the purpose, reason, or goal behind an action.
  • From:
    Indicates origin, source, or separation.
  • Of:
    Shows possession, relationships, material, and more.

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