In grammar, the word relative refers to a previously used word or clause in the same sentence; therefore, when pronoun words such as who, which or that are used to begin a relative clause they are referred to as relative pronouns. A relative clause is a qualifying clause in a sentence that refers to, and provides additional information about, a preceding noun or pronoun and often begins with a relative pronoun.
How are these three relative pronouns used in relation to persons, animals, things or collective nouns (nouns that refer to a group of people or things considered as a single unit such as the word "committee") in a sentence?
Who is used to refer to persons.
Which is used to refer to animals, things and occasionally collective nouns referring to persons.
- That is used to also refer to animals or things; however, it can also be used to refer to people.
Example Sentences Using the Relative Pronouns:
1. Doctors who specialize in treating diseases and conditions of the larynx are called laryngologists.
In this example, the relative pronoun "who" refers back to the noun word "Doctors".
2. In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy, who was also known as Helen of Sparta, was the wife of Menelaus.
Here, the relative pronoun "who" refers back to the proper noun word "Helen".
1. The American lobster, which thrives in the cold waters of the North Atlantic coast, is a solitary sea crustacean.
In this example, the relative pronoun"which" refers back to the noun word "lobster".
2. Our log cabin, which we purchased last week, is located in Virginia.
Here, the relative pronoun "which" refers back to the noun word "cabin".
3. The audience, which had become lukewarm toward the singers in Act I of the play, became enamored with the new singers in Act II.
In this sentence, the relative pronoun "which" relates back to the collective noun word "audience".
1. The blouse that Collette wore had a stain on its sleeve.
In this example, the relative pronoun "that" refers back to (or is relative to) the noun word "blouse".
2. Porpoises have a communicative ability that is quite unique.
Here, the relative pronoun "that" refers back to the noun word "ability".
3. The men that work atop high buildings cannot afford to have a fear of heights.
In this sentence, the relative pronoun "that"refers back to the noun word "men".