Meaning of relative clause. Its functions? And its types?

Meaning of relative clause. Its functions? And its types?

Relative clause gives additional information about the thing or person being talked about. We can place relative clause either in the middle or at the end of a sentence. The use of words such as who, whom, whose, which, or that to introduce relative clauses. These words used in this context are relative pronouns.

Relative pronouns: Relative pronouns perform two functions:

  1. Like other pronouns, they refer to a noun (a person or a thing) that has already been mentioned.
  2. Also, they join two clauses together.

For example:

  • The film is about a boy. The boy overcomes many obstacles in his life.
  • The film is about a boy who overcomes many obstacles in his life.

Use of relative pronouns

Who, whom

Who and who(m) always refer to people.

Who is used as a subject of the verb, whereas whom is used as the object of the verb in the relative clause. However, in modern English, it is common to use who in both subject and object positions. Whom is used only in formal and written English.

  • The man who is talking to the tall woman is the CEO.
  • The man who(m) the woman is talking to is the CEO.
  • Marie Curie, who discovered radium, was a Polish French woman.
  • The boy who(m) I saw on the roof fell down and broke his leg.


We use whose in relative clauses to describe ownership/possession or to show that something belongs to or relates to someone or something. It usually refers to a person, thing or a group. Whose replace his, her, its or their.

  • I have never seen a plant whose flower change colour.
  • We have invited only those scholars whose work is relevant to the project.
  • This is theNGO whose performance was praised by the prime minster.


  • We use which for things, subject or object of the clause.
  • My grandmother has a camera which was manufactured in 1906.
  • Have you seen the book which I bought from my brother?
  • The college students did an experiment which showed the adulteration in milk.
  • The book which I wanted to buy was not for sale.


We use that for persons and things, subjects and object of the clause, and after a superlative. That can be used informally instead of who and which. That is much more common in American English.

  • I saw something that was round with many coloured feathers on it.
  • Where is the pen that I gave you in the morning?
  • Almost all the people that I knew in the office have retired.
  • This is the best book that I have read on the subject.


When, where, why

We use the relative adverbs when, where, why to link a relative clause with a connection of time, place and reason.


We use when after ‘time’ or time words such as ‘day’ or ‘year’.

  • Do you remember the day when you first entered college?
  • My favorite season is spring, when trees begin to grow new leaves.
  • 2016 was the year when demonetization of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes was announced.
  • She cannot forget the year when she won several medals.


We use where after ‘place’ or ‘place’ words ‘room’, ‘street’, ‘town’, ‘country’, etc.

  • I want to see the hospital where I was born.
  • They showed me the place where they had translocated the huge banyan tree.
  • I visited the house where Rabindranath Tagore had spent his childhood.
  • I never liked the neighbourhood where I grew up.


We use why after ‘reason’.

  • Tell me (the reason) why you came late to the interview.
  • There are various reasons why we must complete the project on time.
  • The reason (why) I rang you to a get-together at my place.
  • My friend tried to hide the reason why he was upset.


  • A defining relative clause provides essential information.
  • A non-defining relative clause supplies extra information.
  • A defining relative clause gives specific information that helps in identifying the person or thing that we are talking about.
  • A non-defining relative clause gives additional information about the person or thing that we are talking about. The information is not necessary to identify that person or thing.
  • A non-defining relative clause is usually separated from the rest of the sentence by comma or commas.

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