How to combine two clauses by using a relative pronoun?

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A complex sentence contains a main clause and one or more dependent clauses. One way of transforming a simple sentence into a complex sentence is by expanding an adjective or adjective phrase into an adjective clause.

As you know, adjectives are words used to modify nouns. Examples are: clever, intelligent, smart, beautiful, nice etc. Adjective clauses are also used to modify nouns. If you know how to create adjective clauses, you can write more complex sentences.

Adjective clauses are introduced by the relative pronouns who, that, which, whom and whose. As they are introduced by relative pronouns they are also called relative clauses.

Most common relative pronouns

A relative pronoun can be the subject or object of a verb. The subject relative pronouns are who, which and that. Of these, who is used to refer to people. Which is used to refer to things. That can refer to both people and things. A subject relative pronoun can replace subject pronouns like he, she, they, I, we and it.

Object relative pronouns

The relative pronouns that can be used as the object of verbs are: whom, which and that. Whom is used to refer to people. Which is used to refer to things. That can refer to both people and things. Object relative pronouns can replace object pronouns like him, her, them, me, us and it.

Possessive relative pronouns

Whose is a possessive relative pronoun. It can replace words like his, her, its, our or their. Whose is used to refer to both people and things.

How to combine two sentences using a relative pronoun?

Here is a simple exercise. Write two simple sentences. Both sentences should be about the same person or thing.

Read the two sentences given below.

The pronoun he used in the second sentence refers to the noun the boy. In other words, they both denote the same person.

Now look at the second sentence and try to find out the pronoun that will be replaced by the relative pronoun. In this case, it is the pronoun he. As you can see he is the subject of its verb. Therefore we use a subject relative pronoun like who or that to replace it.

The next step is to rewrite the second sentence with the relative pronoun. Now you get the relative clause: who went missing on Friday OR that went missing on Friday.

Now we have to insert this relative clause into the first sentence. The relative clause should go immediately after the noun it refers to. In this case, it refers to the noun the boy. Therefore, we put it immediately after the boy.

Another example is given below.

As you can see, both sentences are about the same person - Gauri. Now look at the second sentence and find out the pronoun that stands for Gauri. In this case, it is she. The pronoun she refers to a person. It is also the subject of its clause. Therefore, it has to be replaced by the subject relative pronoun who or that.

Now we get the relative clause: who won the first prize in the quiz competition OR that won the first prize in the quiz competition.

The next step is to insert this relative clause into the first sentence.

Now another example is given below.

Both sentences are about a certain rich businessman. Now look at the second sentence and find out the pronoun that stands for the noun businessman. In this case, it is the pronoun him. As you can see, him is the object of the verb like. An object pronoun can only be replaced by an object relative pronoun. We have already learned that relative pronouns that can be the objects of their verbs are: whom, which and that. Which can only refer to people. Therefore, it cannot be used in this case. Instead, we can use whom or that.

Now replace the object pronoun him with the relative pronoun whom / that. Note that a relative pronoun always comes at the beginning of its clause. Therefore, we have to say whom I don't like, and not I don't like whom.

The next step is to insert that relative clause into the first sentence.

Another example is given below.

The possessive word her can only be replaced by the possessive relative pronoun whose. Now we get the relative clause: whose brother serves in the army.

Add that relative clause to the first sentence.

Sections in this article

Pronouns New!
Personal pronouns New!
Possessive pronouns New!
Reflexive pronouns New!
Uses of It New!
Pronouns Exercise New!
It as a preparatory subject
It as a preparatory object