Position of the Relative Pronoun

The purpose of the Relative Pronoun is to provide additional information about the Noun it is referring to. It helps to clarify about the person or thing it is talking about. It can then act as the Subject, Object or Object of the Preposition.

The term antecedent is then used to refer to the Noun, the Relative Pronoun is referring to.


1. The woman, who lives across the road, is a cribber.

2. Have you met the neighbor, whom I was talking about the other day?

3. This is the school that I studies in.

·    As a rule, the Relative Pronoun must be placed as close to its antecedent as possible. Since the Relative Pronoun derives its meaning from the Antecedent, it is but natural that for a grammatically correct sentence to make complete sentence, the Relative Pronoun must always follow the Noun, it is referring to.


1. Not preferred: He searched for the money all over the house that he had forgotten

Preferred: He searched all over the house for the money that he had forgotten.

(Since it was not the house, but the money that he had forgotten)

2. The students, who seem to be whiling away their time, are gossiping in the cafeteria.

3. Sohan has been smoking too much lately which will badly affect his lungs.


·   But as all other rules in English, this rule is also flexible, subject to exceptions.

Examples of Exceptions:             

1. Preferred: Ajanta-Ellora paintings of Jataka tales have been found in Maharashtra, India that date back to 2nd century B.C.

Reason: Please note that in the above case the word ‘that’ refers to the paintings but is not necessarily placed alongside the Noun it refers to since it would have made the subject too heavy and pushed the main verb “have’ too far away from the main subject.

Not preferred: Ajanta-Ellora paintings that date back to 2nd century B.C of Jataka tales, have been found in Maharashtra. (Too cumbersome)

2.  Preferred: Incidents have come to note in which even good students resort to cheating due to the mounting pressure of scoring good grades.

Not Preferred: Incidents, in which even good students resort to cheating due to the mounting pressure of scoring good grades, have come to note.

Reason: This would have made the middle of the sentence too heavy where in English Grammar, in accordance with the principle of end weight there is the tendency to place heavier elements at the end of the clause.


·  However, in most cases of confusion, it is advisable however to place the Relative Pronoun follow the Noun immediately to avoid ambiguity and confusion.


1. (Preferred) I drove the lady whom I met on the beach day before yesterday, home from concert tonight.

(Not Preferred) I drove the lady home from concert tonight whom I met on the beach yesterday.

2. (Preferred) These are easy words for Jim who is a native English speaker to understand without referring to the dictionary.

(Not Preferred)These are easy words for Jim to understand without referring to the dictionary who is a native English speaker.

English Grammar and Composition

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