Relative clauses with relative pronouns

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 1994
25 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Kinds of relative clauses

3. Relative pronouns in general
3.1. Relative pronouns in defining relative clauses
3.1.1. Relative pronoun as subject
3.1.2. Relative pronoun as object
3.1.3. Using prepositions
3.2. Relative pronouns in non-defining relative clauses
3.2.1. Relative pronouns as subject
3.2.2. Relative pronoun as object
3.2.3. Relative pronouns and prepositions
3.2.4. Relative pronoun with quantifiers, superlatives and determiners
3.3. Using ‘whose’
3.4. Using other relative pronouns

4. Nominal relative clauses

5. Material and methods

6. Describing the examples
6.1. Defining relative clauses
6.1.1. Relative pronoun as subject in the following examples:
6.1.2. Relative pronoun in object function in the following examples:
6.1.3. Using ‘whose’ for personal and non-personal antecedent:
6.2. Non-defining relative clauses
6.2.1. Relative pronoun as subject in the following examples:
6.2.2. Relative pronoun in object function in the following examples:
6.3. Other relative pronouns in defining and non-defining relative clauses

7. Analysis
7.1. Defining relative clauses with pronoun
7.2. Contact clauses
7.3. Non-defining relative clauses with pronoun
7.4. Other relative pronouns

8. Conclusion

9. Bibliography

1. Introduction

A complex sentence consists of a main clause and a subordinate clause which functions as subject, object, adverbial or complement.

“When you mention something or someone in a sentence,
you often want to give further information about them.

One way to do this is to use a relative clause.”[1]

My explanations are based on several literatures. I used the Grammar books by Sinclair, Quirk and Swan. The examples I used I also took from school grammar books and textbooks. (See source.)

Quirk distinguishes three types of relative clauses:

- (adnominal) relative clauses
- nominal relative clauses and
- sentential relative clauses.

You get further information especially on adnominal relative clauses and some additional points on nominal relative clauses.

But adnominal relative clauses are the central type of relative clauses.

2. Kinds of relative clauses

We can distinguish two kinds of relative clauses:

- defining relative clauses
- non-defining relative clauses.

In other sources you also find the terms “identifying and non-identifying”[2] or “restrictive and non-restrictive”[3] relative clauses.

“DEFINING RELATIVE CLAUSES explain which person or thing are you talking about.” [4]

Defining relative clauses are mainly used in actual language performance. They are closely connected to their antecedent. Therefore we do not use a comma or dash in front of the relative clause or after it.

“The antecedent is the preceding part of the noun phrase in which the relative clause functions as post modifier.”[5]

In contrast non-defining relative clauses are often separated from the rest of the sentence by commas or dashes. They are mainly used in writing.

“NON-DEFINING RELATIVE CLAUSES give further information
which is not needed to identify the person, thing or group you are talking about.”[6]

3. Relative pronouns in general

Relative clauses are introduced mostly by relative pronouns. They do two jobs.

They function as subjects or objects of verbs in the relative clause and they join sentences together.

We have two series of relative pronouns:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

3.1. Relative pronouns in defining relative clauses

3.1.1. Relative pronoun as subject who / that

If the relative pronoun refers to a personal noun we favour ‘who’ as subject of defining relative clauses, but we also can use ‘that’.

“The boy who / that won the race is 14.”

“The people who / that live opposite us are nice.”[8] which / that

If the antecedent of the relative pronoun is a thing or group of things, we use ‘which’ or ‘that’ as the subject of a defining relative clause.

“I hate books which / that have 900 pages.”

“Is that the card which / that came today?”[9]

‘That’ as subject is preferred to ‘which’ when the antecedent is a word like:

all, some(thing), any(thing), no(thing), little, much only, few, none.

“We don’t watch anything that goes on after midnight.”[10]

“There’s nothing that can help you.”[11]

‘That’ is also very often used after superlatives.

“It’s the best film that has ever been made on the subject of
madness.” [12]

3.1.2. Relative pronoun as object

In defining relative clause we can use ‘who’ (or whom) and ‘that’ as the object if we refer to personal nouns.

Quirk remarks that “whom … would seem pedantic to …people while who as the object in relative clauses is informal and tends to be regarded as incorrect.”[13]

There is a much stronger preference for “that” or “zero” in this case.

“People (that) I visit …

I speak to … “ rather than

“People (who(m)) I visit ….

I speak to …”[14]

When the antecedent is a non personal noun we usually use “which” or “that” as relative pronoun.

“Is that the camera that / which you bought in London…?”[15]

We also can leave out the relative pronoun when it is the object of the verb in the defining relative clause. Such clauses are called CONTACT CLAUSES because they follow directly their antecedents.

“Is that the camera (----) you bought in London…?”[16]


[1] Sinclair, 1990, S.362

[2] Swan, 1991

[3] Quirk, 1985

[4] Sinclair, 1990, S. 363

[5] Quirk, 1985, S. 365

[6] Sinclair, 1990, S. 363

[7] after Quirk, 1985, S. 365f

[8] Cornelsen, B, 1993,S. 115f

[9] Cornelsen, B, 1993,S. 115f

[10] Klett, 1989, S.121

[11] Cornelsen, B, 1993,S. 115

[12] Swan, 1991, S.527

[13] Quirk, 1985, S.1251

[14] Quirk, 1985, S.1251

[15] Klett, 1989, S. 121

[16] Klett, 1989, S. 121

Excerpt out of 25 pages


Relative clauses with relative pronouns
Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg
Englische Grammatik
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Relative, Englische, Grammatik
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Heidrun Dietrich (Author), 1994, Relative clauses with relative pronouns, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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