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Relative pronoun That
The relative pronoun 'that' seems easy to use, and yet its use can sometimes be problematic.
-> that can be used in place of other relative pronouns.
-> that can sometimes be omitted.
The relative pronoun 'that' is required after certain words such as:
-> everything, anything, nothing, the thing
-> only, all
To understand how to use relative pronouns, it is necessary to understand the notion of essential and non-essential clauses.
An essential relative clause is one that is essential for the understanding of the sentence.
a) The men who/that are working here are scientists.
If you omit who/that are working here you have the sentence: the men are scientists, which doesn't make any sense by itself, so this relative is essential.
b) The man named Henry, who is working here, is a scientist.
If you omit who is working here you have the sentence: the man named Henry is a scientist, which makes sense on its own, so this relative is non-essential.
When a relative pronoun 'that'/'who' is essential to the understanding of the sentence, you can use either that or who.
The boy that gave you this book yesterday is my cousin.
The boy who gave you this book yesterday is my cousin.
-> The two phrases that / who gave you this book yesterday are essential to the sentence
The red-haired boy, who is laughing, is my cousin.
-> The clause who is laughing is not essential, it doesn't add anything. In this case, you cannot use 'that'.
In the 3 examples below, there are definining clauses. You can use "whom", "that" or omit it entirely:
The girl whom he met last week is very nice. (defining clause)
The girl that he met last week is very nice. (defining clause)
The girl he met last week is very nice. (defining clause)
The old lady, whom you saw yesterday, was a famous actress. (non-defining clause)
His new computer, which he bought last week, is very expensive. (non-defining clause)
In the two examples above, the relative clauses are non-defining. We can't omit the relative pronoun and we can't use "that".
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