Relative Pronoun - Question reposted


A noun clause can begin with relative pronouns such as that, what or when etc. eg: That I was successful does not make me happy. What we did was wrong. Where you are going to lodge tonight is the problem. My question is whether these sentences are possible. 1.  Whom he likes most is his mother. 2.  Whose book can be read is the problem. 3.  How old she is should be mentioned. 4.  With whom he trevelled is not known.

asked Jul 25 '13 at 10:57 Z. A. Jazley Expert

1 answer


Yes, these sentences are possible.  One can make all sorts of interesting sentences with relative pronouns.  The examples you list above are, actually, nominal relative clauses.  This means that they fulfill the function of a noun.  Let me illustrate with one of your example sentences:


That I was successful does not make me happy.


In this example, you have a relative clause: 'That I was successful'.  It is a clause because it contains its own subject [I] and verb [was].  Notice, however, that you can replace the whole relative clause with the pronoun 'it': It does not make me happy.  In other words, the relative clause functions as a noun because it can be replaced with a pronoun.


In sentences such as these, the relative pronoun does not have an antecedent - this means that the relative pronoun 'that' does not refer back to any other word or phrase.  


One can, however, use relative pronouns differently.  You can write a sentence like this:  The movie which I saw was very interesting.  In this example, the relative pronoun 'which' has an antecedent - it refers to 'the movie'.  Its usage, therefore, is entirely different from that of your example sentences.  This type of sentence uses an adnominal relative clause.  I think we all learned to call these kinds of relative clauses 'adjectival clauses' because they modify the meaning of the noun.


There is a third type of relative clause: the sentential relative clause.  [It can go by different names.]   This type of relative clause is similar to an adnominal relative clause because it has an antecedent, but its antecedent is not merely a word or a phrase but often a complex group of words that may be as long as a paragraph.  For example:  I then decided to exchange my red umbrella for a red one that was larger, which turned out to be a horrendous mistake.


In this sentence the relative pronoun 'which' refers to the whole lot that precedes it.

link answered Jul 25 '13 at 13:35 Ahmad Barnard Expert

Thanks a lot. Your answer is really helpful.

Z. A. JazleyJul 28 '13 at 06:37

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