A relative pronoun is one that introduces a relative clause. It “relates” to the word that its relative clause modifies. Confusing, right? It won’t be when you seen one in action:

  • The student who won the writing competition is my younger sister.

In the above example, “who” relates to “the student,” which is modified by “who won the writing competition.” “Who” also introduces the relative clause “who won the writing competition.”

Don’t get too burdened by the technical terms; they are not important in understanding the concept.

There are five relative pronouns:

  • who
  • whom
  • whose
  • which
  • that

Who (subject) and whom (object) are generally used only for people. (You can also read more about who and whom in this popular article we wrote on Medium). Whose shows possession (for people and things), which is only for things, and that can be used for things and people.

Here is a helpful chart (from Grammar-Monster):

The only thing left is example sentences:

  • Chewie is the name of the dog which ate your sandwich. (“That” would also work.)
  • The girl who wrote the poem is a student at Columbia. (“That” would also work.)
  • The boys danced powerfully to the song that was playing. (“Which” would also work.)
  • Peter, whose favorite manga is One Piece, also likes Bleach and Shingeki no Kyojin.
  • Nan, who loves to sleep, is rarely tired.
  • Henry, for whom coffee is more than just a beverage, cannot function without a cup of latte or mocha to start the day.

Hurray! That concludes our six-part series on pronouns.