Singular Relative Pronoun(9 Important Facts)


Facts related singular relative pronoun have been discussed exhaustively in this article to make your understanding easy and concrete.

A singular relative pronoun is a pronoun which helps an adjective clause to connect with a singular noun of independent clause.

Can relative pronouns be singular?

The relative pronoun used in a sentence will be in a singular number or a plural number that is completely depends on the main noun of sentence. Yes, relative pronouns can be singular but on some particular situations.

  1. If the noun which the relative pronoun is referring is in singular mode,
  2. If the noun equivalent or the pronoun which the relative pronoun is referring is in singular mode.

Example of relative pronoun as ‘Singular Number’ –

The person who gave you this novel to read is no more.

Example relative pronoun as ‘Plural Number’ –

All your friends who gave you this novel to read are waiting for review.

Explanation –

In both of these examples, the relative pronoun is ‘who’. In the first example, the relative pronoun ‘who’ is in singular number because the noun equivalent ‘the person’ is in singular number while in the second example, the relative pronoun ‘who’ is in plural number because the noun equivalent ‘All your friends’ is in plural number.

When relative pronouns are singular?

Relative pronouns become singular when the noun, noun equivalent or the pronoun to which that particular relative pronoun is referring is in ‘singular mode’. We must keep in mind that the form of relative pronouns do not change but the verb used in a sentence changes to show the number (singular or plural ) of the respective noun or noun equivalent.

singular relative pronoun
Five examples of sentences framed with ‘Singular Relative Pronoun’

Example 1 – This is the piece of paper which you was looking for.

Example 2 – These are the papers which you was looking for.

Explanation –

Now, look at the use of ‘be’ verb in both the sentences.

In the first example, the relative pronoun ‘which’ is in singular mode because it is referring to a single piece of paper and be verb ‘is’ in this sentence is also in singular mode.

In the second example, the relative pronoun ‘which’ is in plural mode because it is referring to more than one paper and be verb ‘are’ in this sentence is also in plural mode.

Thus, we can see that the form of the relative pronoun ‘which’ is same in both sentences but the use of correct ‘be’ verb makes it singular or plural.

Which relative pronouns are singular?

There are five pronouns which can be used as ‘Singular Relative Pronoun’ in English grammar usage. They are

  1. who,
  2. whom,
  3. what,
  4. which, and
  5. that

We must keep in mind that same five relative pronouns can be used as plural. The difference between ‘singular relative pronoun’ and ‘plural relative pronoun’ lies on the noun or noun equivalent to which these relative pronouns are referring. We should also use the ‘be’ verb of the sentence in correspondence with the subject or main noun of the sentence to make that particular relative pronoun a singular number or a plural number.

Example – The house which you have rented is a famous haunted place.

Explanation –

Here, the relative pronoun have been used to connect the object and subject is ‘which’. The word ‘which’ has been used in this sentence to indicate the antecedent ‘the house’.  The antecedent, ‘the house’ is in singular number. Thus, the relative pronoun ‘which’ in this sentence is also a singular number.

Why are relative pronouns singular?

Some relative pronouns become singular when their antecedent of independent clause is also in singular mode. The only rule to use a relative pronoun in a sentence to connect the relative dependent clause with the main is that the relative pronoun must match itself in number with the antecedent of independent clause. The form of the verb which is referring the main noun or noun equivalent must also be same with the noun in number to make the relative pronoun a singular relative pronoun.

Example – This is the man who always degraded you in front of your colleagues.

Explanation –

The relative pronoun ‘who’ is in this sentence is indicating the noun equivalent ‘the man’. Now, the relative pronoun ‘who’ and the noun equivalent ‘the man’ are matching each other in terms of number as they both are in singular number. The ‘be’ verb used in this sentence is also in singular number in accordance with the noun equivalent.

Which relative pronouns are always singular?

No relative pronouns can be only in singular form in all situations. Relative pronouns perform as singular number or as plural number on the basis of its antecedent. If the relative pronoun is connecting the relative clause with a single antecedent then the relative pronoun can be termed as ‘Singular Relative Pronoun’.

Example – Let’s meet with Mr. Robinson whose economic analysis is famous among economists.

Explanation –

Here, the relative pronoun ‘whose’ is adding information about the noun ‘Mr. Robinson’ in the form of relative adjective clause. Now, we can see that the relative pronoun ‘whose’ is in singular number because the main noun of the sentence ‘Mr. Robinson’ is also in singular number.

Singular relative pronoun examples –

Example 1 – I am not a person whom you can manipulate according to your needs.

Example 2 – Let’s have an interaction with Ms. Leena who is responsible for the arrangements of this meeting.

Example 3 – Please, tell me the name of the person whose books these are.

Example 4 – You must convey your parents that you are not going to study science to fulfill their dream.

Example 5 – Now, show me the dress which you have selected to wear on your birthday.

Explanation 1 – Here, the word ‘whom’ can be termed as ‘Singular Relative Pronoun’ because it has been referred the singular speaker of the independent clause.

Explanation 2 – Here, the word ‘who’ can be termed as ‘Singular Relative Pronoun’ because it is indicating the noun ‘Ms. Leena’ who is also a singular number.

Explanation 3 – Here, the word ‘whose’ can be termed as ‘Singular Relative Pronoun’ because it is indicating the singular noun equivalent of the independent clause.

Explanation 4 – Here, the word ‘that’ can be termed as ‘Singular Relative Pronoun’ because it is indicating a singular information which is going to conveyed by the speaker to his or her parents.

Explanation 5 – Here, the word ‘which’ can be termed as ‘Singular Relative Pronoun’ because it is indicating single ‘dress’.

Which relative pronouns can be either singular or plural?

All five relative pronouns can be either singular or plural but on the basis of the antecedent noun or noun equivalent to which the relative pronoun is indicating.

A relative pronoun can be singular in following situations.

Relative Pronoun as ‘Singular Number’Antecedent / Noun / Noun Equivalent / Pronoun
whoIf the antecedent is a singular living human being.
whoSometime single animal is also referred with the relative pronoun ‘who’.
whichIf the antecedent is a singular living animal
whichIf the antecedent is a singular non-living object.
whichIf the antecedent is a name of a single place.
thatIf the antecedent is a singular living human being.
thatIf the antecedent is a singular living animal.
thatIf the antecedent is a singular non-living object or thing.
whoseIf the antecedent is a singular living animal.
whoseIf the antecedent is a singular non-living object or thing.
whoseIf the antecedent is a single object then also the relative pronoun ‘whose’ can be used but only on very formal situations.
whomIf the antecedent is a singular living animal.
Use of ‘Relative Pronoun’

Example – The amount of money that you have given is not refundable.

Explanation –

Here, the relative pronoun ‘that’ is adding information about the subject. Here, the relative pronoun ‘that’ is a ‘Singular Relative Pronoun’ as the subject, the amount of money has been framed as a total and regarded as a singular number.

How to identify relative pronouns?

We can identify a relative pronoun with the help of following clues.

Clue 1 – If the pronoun used in a sentence helped a dependent clause to add with the independent clause by giving some information about the main noun or noun equivalent of the sentence.

Clue 2 – Relative pronoun helps to frame questions about the noun, like; How many, Which type, Whose book etc.

Clue 3 – If we found who, whom, what, which, and that as pronoun which is creating relation of the object with the subject or noun of the sentence then we must understand that they are relative pronouns.

Example – You must be a wise person whose nature is humble.

Explanation –

Here, we can see that the word ‘whose’ has been used to connect the dependent clause ‘nature is humble’ with the independent clause ‘you must be a wise person’. Thus, the word ‘whose’ is a relative pronoun which has been used to create a relation with the object.

Conclusion –

To conclude, we can say that pronouns like; who, whom, whose, which and that are called relative pronouns because they help a dependent clause to connect itself with an independent clause. When and where are can also be used as ‘relative pronouns’ in modern grammar usage though both ‘when’ and ‘where’ are traditionally called ‘relative adverbs’.

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