ESL Relative Pronouns Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Once your ESL students are ready to work with relative pronouns, they are able to communicate in more complicated, interesting ways. This lesson presents activities to help learners understand how and why relative pronouns work.

The Significance of the Relative Pronoun

As an ESL teacher, you are probably thinking about how you can help your students' communication grow in sophistication. One way to do this is to make sure your students understand relative pronouns. Relative pronouns, such as who, whom, which, whichever and that, increase the complexity of syntax because they can be used to connect different clauses to nouns and phrases. Students who understand relative pronouns can make sense of more complicated statements, and their own expressive language will be more accurate and meaningful. To get your ESL students working with relative pronouns, offer them engaging activities that give them a chance to practice and understand.

Relative Pronouns Activities

Following are a variety of activities to provide your ESL students with practice using relative pronouns.

Spot the Pronouns

This activity can be done independently or in pairs. Give your students an article, short story or passage to work with. Ask them to read the passage twice. The first time, they should just read for meaning, but the second time, they should circle all of the words that they think connect a noun to another phrase.

For instance, in the sentence, The man who gave the speech looked angry, students should circle the word who. After your students are finished, bring them together and ask them to compare their findings. You can use this as a transition into talking about why relative pronouns matter and where they are used in writing.

Choose the Right Relative Pronoun

For this activity, students will have to think about which pronoun is right for which situation. Give your students a list of sentences that are missing relative pronouns. Some example sentences are:

  • The store _____ is on the corner sells apples.
  • Sally really likes that book, _____ includes several appealing characters.
  • Please hand your homework to the teacher _____ is standing next to the entryway.
  • I told my children to choose _____ piece of chocolate they like.
  • The post office, _____ I went to mail the letter, closes at 5 o'clock.
  • Tomatoes, _____ grow in August, are filled with vitamins.
  • Where did you get the cookie _____ you were eating last night?
  • You will have to be satisfied with _____ the teacher chooses as today's leader.

Explain to students that their task is to fill in the missing relative pronoun. They should then compare answers to make sure their sentences make sense. In this case, the answers are that, which, who, whichever, where, which, that, whomever.

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