The noun is defined in traditional notional grammars as a word that names a person, place, thing, or idea. A pronoun is a small word that takes the place of a noun, noun phrase, noun clause, and other grammatical form. Pronouns are a subcategory of nouns. The relative pronoun is both a type of pronoun that take the place of another word, phrase, or clause and a type of subordinating conjunction that introduces an adjective, or relative, clause. 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 prepositional complement is a word, phrase, or clause that directly follows a preposition and completes the meaning of the prepositional phrase. The five relative pronouns that can function as the prepositional complement of an adjective clause are whom, which, Ø, and informally that and who. Note that the preposition may be marooned from the relative pronoun functioning as the prepositional complement. Examples of relative pronouns as prepositional complements include the following:
- Lorelei is the woman for whom the seagulls fly.
- The information for which you asked me to look is unavailable.
- The information that you asked me to look for is unavailable.
- The issue Ø the politicians are arguing about affects us all.
- The field of medicine which you specialize in should be your passion.
- The woman who you smiled at is my geometry professor.
Relative Pronouns as Prepositional Complements
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.