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Relative Pronouns

1. The lady, who was here to see you yesterday, called again this morning.

2. Bring me the letters that lie on the table.

3. Is this the train which leaves for New York at six o'clock?

4. Tell me what you have read.

5. He used such materials as could be found.

In these sentences the words who, that, which, and as, used to introduce the clauses which explain some word that goes before them, are called relative pronouns.

The words lady, letters, train, and materials which these pronouns explain are called antecedents.

A relative pronoun is one that relates to a preceding noun or pronoun called the antecedent, and connects the clause which it introduces to the antecedent.


Relative pronouns are sometimes called conjunctive pronouns, because of their connecting force.

In the fourth sentence we find the word what used to introduce a clause; but we find no word for the clause to explain.

The relative pronoun what is peculiar in this respect; it has no antecedent, but fills the place of both antecedent and relative pronoun.

In sentence number four we might change what, putting the books that in its place. Our sentence would then be made to read, Tell me the books that you have read.

The relative pronouns are who, which, that, what, and as.

1. Whosoever will may come.

2. Whichever path you take, will lead you home.

3. Whatever comes, be patient.

. These sentences are samples to show the use of the compounds of who, which, and what.

The compounds of who, which, and what are whoever, whosoever, whichever, whichsoever, whatever, whatsoever.

Who and which are declined as follows:

Singular and Plural

Singular and Plural










1. Who told you that?

2. That is all that was said.

3. He did what he could.

4. No one knew what became of him.

5. The men and the animals that are attached to the circus reached the city at midnight

6. The books that you sent me are delightful.

7. The remark that I objected to ought not to have been made.

8. She wore a bonnet the trimming of which suggested a flower garden.

9. Our Father who art in heaven.

10. I know what you want.

11. Whoever did it ought to be punished.

12. You shall have whichever you choose.

13. I will accept whatever you send.

14. I liked the book you gave me.

15. Whosoever will, may come.

After a careful study of the relative pronouns in these sentences, learn the following:

1. That and what are used in the nominative and objective cases, but have no possessive form.

2. Who is used only for persons and for things personified; which for animals and things without life; and that for persons, animals, and things.

3. That is generally used instead of who or which when the antecedent means both persons and things.

4. That is preferable to who or which when the clause that it introduces is merely restrictive.

5. Whose is used for persons, for lower animals, and even for things without life. Modern writers seem to prefer of which to whose when the reference is to things without life.

6. Which was formerly used for persons as well as for animals and things, but it is now restricted in its use to animals or things.

7. What has no antecedent expressed in the sentence, but is itself equivalent to both antecedent and relative, and on this account is called a compound relative. It usually means that which, the thing which, or those which.

8.. The compounds, whoever, whichever, whatever, whoso, whosoever, and whatsoever have an indefinite, a general meaning, and are used without an antecedent expressed.


The compounds ending in so and soever are rarely used in modern English.

1. Who strives to help others, helps himself thereby.

2. Who lives honestly, lives nobly.

3. Who steals my purse, steals trash.

4. Who plants trees, loves others than himself.

In the above sentences the antecedent is omitted. The personal pronoun he might be supplied in each case.

The relative pronoun when so used has the force of a compound relative pronoun.

A relative pronoun agrees with its antecedent in person, number and gender.

1. Vote with the party that is right.

2. From him who would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

3. We ought to make ourselves good scholars, which we cannot do without hard study.

4. My mother was very hind to me, which made me love her dearly.

We see from the above sentences that:

The antecedent of a relative pronoun may be a noun, a pronoun, a phrase, or a clause.

1. He reads such books as he likes.

2. He receives as much money as he earns.

By a study of the above sentences we see that: As is a relative pronoun when it follows such or same, and generally when it follows as many or as much.

1. There is not one of us but commits errors.

2. There is not a man of them but longs for peace.

By a careful study of the above sentences we see that: But has the force of a relative pronoun in certain sentences where the principal clause has a negative force.

Select ten sentences from your reader containing relative pronouns.

Try to find sentences that shall bring in all the relative pronouns.

Write two sentences to illustrate each use of the relative pronouns given above.

Give the antecedent, and name the case of each relative pronoun in the following sentences:

1. The general was a man who never expected defeat.

2. He found a small book containing a language that he did not understand.

3. The nest in which we found the little birds was made of grass, horse-hair, and moss.

4. "We shall soon see about that," replied the officer calmly.

5. Never travel with one who deserts you at the approach of danger.

6. There was no one who could tell what caused the leak.

7. He made the most of such time as he could steal from his sleep to read whatever books he was able to borrow.

8. The men and animals that live in the frigid zone require food that contains a great deal of carbon.

9. An optimist is one who seeks to see only the best, and who refuses to see what is bad.

10. He placed his hand kindly upon the head of the boy to whom he was speaking, and asked him what he wanted.

11. No one ought to do that which his conscience does not approve.

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