Cases Where Relative Pronouns Are Omitted

Relative pronouns are words like that, who, which, whom, whose, where, when and why.

The most common relative pronouns in English are who, whom, whose, that and which. In certain situations the words what, when and where can also function as relative pronouns.

Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses. A relative clause is a type of adjective clause used to modify a word or phrase in the main clause. The word or phrase thus modified by the relative clause is called its antecedent.

  • The dress that Julie bought was expensive.

Here the relative clause that Julie bought modifies the noun dress. Therefore the word dress is the antecedent of the relative clause.

  • The professor, whom I respect, recently received an award.

We have already learned that the relative pronoun may be omitted when it acts as the object of the relative clause.

  • I know the person whom you are talking about. (More formal)
  • I know the person who you are talking about. (Less formal)
  • I know the person you are talking about. (Informal)
  • The bookstore did not have the book that I wanted. (Formal)
  • The bookstore did not have the book I wanted. (Informal)
  • This is the house in which I lived when I was younger. (Formal)
  • This is the house where I lived when I was younger. (Formal)

After nouns referring to place, we can use where instead of preposition + which.

  • This is the house I lived in when I was younger. (Informal)
  • I still remember the day on which I received my first paycheck. (Formal)
  • I still remember the day when I received my first paycheck. (Formal)

After nouns referring to time, we can use when instead of preposition + which.

  • I still remember the day I received my first paycheck. (Informal)

The word whom is not used very often. It is almost always omitted while speaking. In a less formal style, people sometimes use who instead of whom.

Note that whom cannot be omitted when it is preceded by a preposition because in this case whom acts as the object of the preposition.

  • At last, the officer for whom we were desperately waiting arrived. (Formal)
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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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