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Home » Module 1 Unit 1: Sentence fragments » Common mistakes - page 6/8
Unit 1: Sentence fragments Unit 2: Run-on sentences Unit 3: Subject-verb agreementUnit 4: TensesUnit 5: PassiveUnit 6: ApostrophesUnit 7: Articles


Mistake 4 - You forget that relative clauses always refer to something in the same sentence.

Relative pronouns must refer to information in front of them in the same sentence when they begin a relative clause.

The common relative pronouns - words that serve to introduce relative clauses - are who, whom, whose, which and that. When, where and why can also be used to fulfill the same grammatical function and are often referred to as ‘relative pronouns’ when they do.

Most of these words can also serve a totally different function, as question words. When they are used as question words they do not need information in front of them in the same sentence. Compare the use of the word which in the following sentences:

Which study do you mean?
(Here which is used as a question word.)

Philosophy, which she studies as well, was extremely interesting.
(Here which is used as a relative pronoun. It refers to information in front of it in the sentence - in this case, the word 'philosophy'.)

Note that these words can appear at the beginning of a sentence when used as question words, but never when used as relative pronouns.


This is a complete sentence: Which study do you mean?

This is not a complete sentence: Which she studied as well.