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Relative Clauses - Which, What, Who?

These relative pronouns are very useful tools when you wish to link two sentences together, but... how do you know which one to use and where best to put it in your complex sentence?

Now, that's a good question!

Relative Clauses introduced by WHICH

Relative clauses are introduced by a relative pronoun, like which. There is an equivalence between this situation and a coordinate clause starting with and:

"She cooked a really good dinner, and we all enjoyed it."
"She cooked a really good dinner, which we all enjoyed."

When you have this situation, the relative pronoun 'which' refers to ‘dinner’, for which reason we don’t need to use ‘it’ at the end of the sentence – we would refer to the dinner twice in the same sentence. Observe that we use 'which' for things and also animals, not for people.

There are other situations where the relative pronoun points back to a whole clause or sentence:

He’s been working on his computer for too many hours, and that’s not good for his health.

He’s been working on his computer for too many hours, which is not good for his health. [Here we do not need to use ‘that’ for the same reason.]

Relative Clauses introduced by WHO

Although this is clearly used for words denoting people (as opposed to things), this is another confusing situation...

How do you chose between so many forms of who?

For example:

"I met my colleague yesterday. She was promoted as a manager this year."         "I met my colleague yesterday, who was promoted as a manager this year."

You see, in this case, who refers to 'she' from the previous sentence and this word is the subject of the sentence, so it is in its nominative case. For this, we use who and not the others.  

But take the case of:

"Have you spoken with the electrician yet? I told him about our new show?"
"Have you spoken with the electrician yet, whom I told about our new show?"

Here we have the dative case - 'I told him', I gave him/her', 'you reminded him' - and in this situation you need to use whom and not the others. You also need to use this form in questions like "Whom did you tell this information?"

And the last alternative:

"Would you believe it? A crazy driver knocked my lamp post down last night!" "His car is the one parked badly in front of my house now."
"Would you believe it? A crazy driver, whose car is parked badly in front of my house now, knocked my lamp post down last night!"

Here we have the genitive case, expressing possession - its his car, therefore I say 'whose car' in the relative clause. I hope this is not too difficult.

Now do an exercise using what you've learned so far:

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

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