Relative Pronouns: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Relative Pronoun Defined
  • 0:30 Why Are Relative…
  • 0:49 Examples of Relative…
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  • 2:29 When Relative Pronouns…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
Relative pronouns are words that introduce dependent clauses in sentences called relative clauses. They can also stand alone. In this lesson, we will explore the various roles of relative pronouns.

Relative Pronoun Defined

A relative pronoun is a type of pronoun that often introduces dependent (or relative) clauses in sentences. They also can stand alone as the subject or object of a sentence.

There is a specific list of relative pronouns, and here they are: who, whoever, whom, whomever, that, which, when, where, and whose. (Sometimes, what, which, and where can serve as relative pronouns.)

Why Are Relative Pronouns Important?

Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses, which is a group of words that has both a subject and a verb and modifies a noun in a sentence. Without the relative pronoun, the relative clause would not exist. In fact, the relative pronoun is a 'clue' word to let us know that the relative clause is beginning.

Examples of Relative Pronouns in Sentences

Here are two examples of how relative pronouns are used in sentences. Let's start with the simple sentence:

The fly landed.

Now let's build it up with a relative clause:

The fly that had been buzzing around Sam's head landed on the cake.

In this case, the relative pronoun that introduces the relative clause that had been buzzing around Sam's head. At first, we only knew that a fly landed. Now, by adding the relative clause, we have more information about the fly. The whole clause that had been buzzing around Sam's head modifies the noun and subject, fly.

Let's try another:

The girl whose leg was bruised in the soccer game is my sister.

The subject of this sentence is the word girl. We know that the word whose is a relative pronoun. It introduces the relative clause whose leg was bruised in the soccer game. This relative clause modifies the subject, girl.

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