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- We use who for a person, and which for a thing or an idea.
- We use that for both a person and a thing/idea.
- Whose is a possessive pronoun.
- When who is the object, whom, with a preposition, can be used instead, but it is formal and rather old-fashioned.
In modern speech, we use who, or we leave out the pronoun.
- Where (relative adverb) refers to places.
Examples of use :
- I know a woman. She speaks 6 languages. » I know a woman who speaks 6 languages.
- I know a woman. Her husband speaks 6 languages. » I know a woman whose husband speaks 6 languages.
- I spoke to a person yesterday. » The person to whom I spoke yesterday (formal)
» The person (who) I spoke to yesterday (informal)
- I live in a house. It’s 200 years old. » I live in a house which is 200 years old.
- That’s the hotel. We stayed there last year. » That’s the hotel where we stayed last year.
That’s the hotel that we stayed in last year.
When can we omit relative pronouns?
- Compare :
– The woman who wanted to see me was a doctor.
– The woman (that) I wanted to see was a doctor.
- Relative pronouns can be omitted in the following cases :
- When they are the object of relative clauses (as above) ex : – The candidate (that) I interviewed was from Japan.
- In reported speech : ex : – He said (that) Mr. Bell had invented the telephone.
- After adjectives : ex : – I’m glad (that) you came. – She was surprised (that) he noticed.