UNIT 90. Relative Clauses 1: Clauses with who/that/which

UK-03 grammar


Look at this example sentences:
The woman who lives next door is a doctor.

“who lives next door” – relative clause

A clause is part of a sentence. A relative clause tells us which person or thing (or what kind of person or thing) the speaker means:
– The woman who lives next door … (“who lives next door” tells us which woman)
– People who live in the country … (“who live in the country” tells us what kind of person)

We use who in a relative clause when we are talking about people (not things):

the woman – she lives next door – is a doctor

-> The woman who lives next door is a doctor.

we know a lot of people – they live in the country.

-> We know a lot of people who live in the country.

  • An architect is someone who designs buildings.
  • What was the name of the person who called you?
  • Anyone who wants to apply for the job must do so by Friday.

You can also use that (instead of who), but you can’t use which for people:
– The woman that lives next door is a doctor. (not the woman which)

Sometimes you must use who (not that) for people – see Unit 93.


When we are talking about things, we use that or which (not who) in a relative clause:

where is the cheese? – it was in the refrigerator.

-> Where is the cheese { that / which } was in the refrigerator?


  • I don’t like stories that have unhappy endings. (or stories which have …)
  • Barbara works for a company that makes furniture.
    (or a company which makes furniture)
  • The machine that broke down is working again now.
    (or The machine which broke down)

That is more common that than which, but sometimes ou must use which – see Unit 93.


What = “the thing(s) that.” Compare what and that.
– What happened was my fault. (= the thing that happened)
– Everything that happened was my fault. (not Everything what happened)
– The machine that broke down is now working again.
(not the machine what broke down)


Remember that in relative clauses we use who/that/which, not he/she/they/it:
– I’ve never spoken to the woman who lives next door. (not the woman she lives)