Using “Who” / “That” / “Which” with Relative Clauses

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Welcome to your Using “Who” / “That” / “Which” with Relative Clauses lesson! In this topic we talk about:
• Relative clauses with subjects
Relative clauses with objects
Placing prepositions
Using “what”
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Relative clauses with subjects

Here are some examples of relative clauses:

The man who lives next door loves to hike.”

The man that lives next door loves to hike.”

The relative clause means: “The man lives next door”.
The man = Subject

In these two sentences, “who” and “that” refer to “The man”. These are the subjects in the relative clauses. When you are talking about the subjects you use “who”, “that” or “which”.

Relative clauses with objects

Sometimes “who”“that” or “which” is the object in the relative clause:

The man who I met last week works in London.

This relative clause means: “I met the man last week.”
The man = Object

When this is the case, you can leave out “who”“that” or “which”:

The man who I met last week works in London.
The man I met last week works in London.

The car that I bought broke down.
The car I bought broke down.

The dinner which you cooked was delicious.”
The dinner you cooked was delicious.”

Placing prepositions

Note where we place prepositions in relative clauses. They are always placed directly after the verb:

Do you know the company that James works for?
(James works for a company, do you know it?)

The tent I slept in last night was very warm.
(I slept in a tent, it was warm)

That’s the USB key I’m looking for.

He’s the man I was sitting next to on the bus.

Using “what”

Note that you cannot use “what” in these types of relative clauses:

Everything that she told you was a lie.

Everything she told you was a lie.
(not “Everything what she told you was a lie.“)

“What” means “the things that”:

Did you see what they did?


  • When you are talking about subjects you use “who”, “that” or “which”.
  • When you are talking about objects you can leave out “who”“that” or “which”.
  • Do not use “what” in these types of relative clauses.

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