Traditional grammars define nouns as words that name people, places, things, and ideas. Pronouns are a subcategory of nouns that take the place of nouns, noun phrases, noun clauses, and other grammatical forms. Relative pronouns are both a type of pronoun that take the place of another word, phrase, or clause and a type of subordinating conjunction that introduce adjective, or relative, clauses. The relative pronouns in English are who, whom, that, which, Ø (null relative pronoun), and whose (as well as the relative adverbs when, where, and why).
In grammar, a direct object is a word, phrase, or clause that follows and receives the action of a transitive verb. The five relative pronouns that can function as the direct object of an adjective clause are that, whom, which, Ø and informally who. Examples of relative pronouns as direct objects include the following:
- The dog that you like is up for adoption.
- The man whom your son punched recently bought an ice cream truck.
- My boss asked for the report, which I hate writing, by tomorrow.
- CVS recently recalled the hand sanitizer Ø the criminals stole.
- The man who you love once broke my heart.
Relative Pronoun as Direct Object
Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.