Parts of Speech
Interrogative, Relative & Demonstrative Pronouns


We use interrogative pronouns to ask a questions. These pronouns can be personal or non-personal.

We can break down the personal interrogative pronouns classification even further by case. (For information on pronoun case, see lesson 1.2f.)

                 Subject     Object       Possessive     
personal         who         whom         whose
                 whoever     whomever
(non)-personal   which
non-personal     what


     Who has been sitting in my chair?
     Which chair are you talking about?
     What do you want?
     Whose car did you drive here?
     For whom will you vote?
Relative Pronouns
Relative pronouns introduce one type of
subordinate clause called a relative clause (which "relates" to the primary clause). These pronouns have various forms which depend on their role within the clause or according to their case.

               subject        object         possessive
personal       who            whom           whose
non-personal   which          which          whose
               that           that

          I went to see the singer who was in town.
               "Who" is a relative pronoun which is the subject of
               the relative clause "who was in town."

          I read the book which the professor recommended to me.

"Which" is a non-personal relative pronoun which is the object of the relative clause "which the professor recommended to me." ("The professor" is the subject.)

The relative pronoun that can sometimes be left out of a sentence.

Example:    I'm almost finished the book that I'm reading.
        I'm almost finished the book I'm reading.
Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns can function by themselves as substitutes for specific nouns. The speaker usually uses such an independent demonstrative pronoun when he or she physically or verbally gestures towards something. The writer should only use such an independent demonstrative pronoun when the object of the gesture is completely and clearly identifiable. The demonstrative pronoun does not replace an entire preceding idea. We classify demonstrative pronouns according to number only.

                  Singular          Plural

                   this              these
                   that              those


     This needs to be repaired.

          The demonstrative pronoun this is referring to some
          object (a washing machine?) that the speaker is talking

If it is unclear which antecedent noun the demonstrative pronoun replaces, add the noun after the pronoun. In writing, one cannot point effectively to a noun, especially if the preceding sentence contains more than one choice. If the writer wishes to point to the idea of the preceding sentence, he or she will have to supply a new noun. The pronoun will now be a
demonstrative adjective, because it will describe the noun (new or repeated) rather than replace it.


The Renaissance looked to the past, especially classical times, for ideas
that would enliven art and political thought.  This is important to the
student of the early modern period.

AMBIGUOUS!--This here might refer to any number of nouns,
but it really refers to the idea of the preceding sentence.
Therefore, one must find a suitable noun to describe the idea
and supply that information.

The second sentence could become:

This appropriation of the past is an important concept for the
student of the early modern period.

Interrogative, Relative and Demonstrative Pronouns

By clicking on a bubble, identify whether the highlighted word is an interrogative, relative, or demonstrative pronoun. If your response shows as "Incorrect" in the status bar, you can click on the other answers to find the correct one (which will give you "Correct" in the status bar).

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Copyright © 1998, 1999
English Department
University of Calgary

Last updated: June 4, 1999