A relative pronoun is used to connect a clause or phrase to a noun or pronoun. You see them used everyday with the most common relative pronouns being: who, whom, which, whoever, whomever, whichever, and that.
A relative pronoun is usually seen in a sentence at the beginning of an adjective clause. An adjective clause functions as an adjective, modifying nouns and pronouns.
An adjective clause starts with either a relative adverb:
- where, when, and why
or a relative pronoun such as:
- that, who, whom, whose, or which
Example (with relative pronoun underlined and adjective clause in italics): The driver who ran the stop sign was careless.
Here is a full list of relative pronouns:
that, when, which, whichever, whichsoever, who, whoever, whosoever, whom, whomever, whomsoever whose, whosesoever whatever, whatsoever
Following are examples of sentences that have adjective clauses starting with relative pronouns (relative pronouns are underlined).
Relative pronouns are similar to conjunctions in that they provide a link between a clause and the balance of the sentence. The difference from a conjunctions is that a relative pronoun doesn't just bring attention to the clause. The relative pronoun actually plays the role of a noun in the clause.