/ / Relative pronouns in English and their role in a complex sentence

Relative pronouns in English and their role in a complex sentence

In English, there are eleven types of pronouns. A common property of all pronouns is that they are all used as a substitute for other parts of speech.

relative pronouns in English

Next will be considered one of the types of pronouns in the English language - relative and allied.

Common features and differences

These pronouns are usually combined into one group, since both subgroups are represented by the same words: Who (Whom), Whose, Which, What, That.

Their membership in a particular subgroup depends on their role in a complex sentence.

1. Relative pronouns always indicate a specific word in the main sentence.

I see a person who is smiling (I see a person who smiles).

The man who gave me the apple has already left.

There was nobody who asked about you (There was nobody who asked about you).

2. Allied pronouns serve to introduce a minor sentence.

Who wrote it is famous.

I know who was it (I know who it was).

Their common function is the connection of parts of the complex.proposals, namely the connection of side sentences with the principal. Unlike unions, they serve as independent members of the proposal. The union, as it is known, is not.

relative pronouns and adverbs in English

Further, each of the five words that can perform the function of relative pronouns will be considered in detail.


Relative pronouns in Englisheasy to remember: four of them coincide with question words. The only exception is the word That, which is the most universal pronoun in these pronouns. It can replace any other pronoun of this group. Pronoun That can refer to both humans and wildlife, as well as inanimate objects, numerals and pronouns.

Relative pronouns in English are usually translated into Russian by the words “which”, “which”, “the one that ...”, “the one that”. Also, many of the pronouns in this category may be omitted.

Pronoun Who / Whom

It is used exclusively to designate living beings and appears in the secondary sentence as a subject or a direct addition (Whom).

The boy who has just come is my brother (the boy who just entered is my brother).

The woman whom you see on the street is our grandmother (The woman you see on the street is our grandmother).

There is a girl who we saw in the theater last week (This is the girl we saw at the theater last week).

He is the only man whom I can believe (He is the only person I can believe).


It is used as a reference to nouns and pronouns from the main sentence, which denote living beings, in rare cases - objects.

relative and allied pronouns in English

The relative pronoun Whose cannot be omitted.

(This is the woman whose car broke down).

Do you know what last month we saw? (Do you know the policeman whose picture we saw last month?).

Occasionally a which can be associated with inanimate objects, speaking instead of the phrase of which.

For example:

In the sky there were a lot of stars (there were already many stars in the sky, the light of which was very bright).


Always applies to inanimateobjects or representatives of the animal world. The relative pronoun Which is an attribute of the book lexicon. In spoken English, this pronoun is used extremely rarely, mainly for deliberately giving the phrase unnecessary pretentiousness.

The house which you saw is mine (House, which you saw, my).

In the secondary sentence the pronounmay be subject to or direct addition. This pronoun is a vivid example of a relative pronoun in English that can be omitted.

He opened the door (which) he had come to (He opened the door to which he approached).

This is the game (which, that) I played yesterday (This is the game I played yesterday).

Also, this relative pronoun in English may refer to the main sentence as a whole.

My friend left the town, which made me sad (My friend left the city, and this upset me).


As a relative pronoun in the English language is used only in popular speech.

Relative adverbs in English

Relative pronouns are often confused with relative adverbs.

There are three such adverbs: Why, When, Where.Their difference from relative pronouns in the English language is that these adverbs can not be independent members of the sentence, but perform the function of entering a subordinate clause.

exercises on relative pronouns in English

These adverbs are used to clarifydetails when it comes to specific places (Where), a specific time (When) or the causes of an event (Why). As a rule, in English, relative pronouns (usually That or Which) can be used instead of relative adverbs. Relative adverbs can also be omitted.

The house (which / that) we lived at was great (The house where we lived was great).

I remember the time. = I remember the time that I got married (I remember the time when I got married).

He can’t be busy at work. This is what he’s busy at work. (He cannot play football because he is busy at work).

Exercises on relative pronouns in English

1. Insert the appropriate pronoun.

That was the hat ... he had stolen.

2. Translate using relative pronouns in English.

He came to visit a friend whom he had known for a long time.

3. Tell about your friend, using constructions with relative pronouns in English in the story.

4. Make a dialogue on a given situation: you find the store and tell the seller what clothes you want to buy. Use constructions with pronouns of the studied group in the dialogue.

5. Answer the following questions about the topic studied:

  • What is the difference between relative pronouns from the Allied?
  • Explain the difference between relative pronouns and adverbs.
  • List the five pronouns of the studied group.
  • Which of these pronouns is the most versatile? Confirm your answer with examples.
    relative pronouns in English examples

This topic is important in learningEnglish, because for reading and writing literary texts, business correspondence, journalistic texts, it is necessary to understand complex sentences and be able to correctly compose and use them in spoken and written language.