Relative pronouns

Relative pronouns refer back to a noun or pronoun in the main clause of a sentence. In English, we use “who”, “that”, or “which” as relative pronouns. In the sentence “Do you remember the girl who slapped you at that party?”, ‘who’ is the relative pronoun and ‘girl’ is the ‘antecedent’.

The antecedent is the noun or pronoun that the relative pronoun refers to. Let’s take a look at some more English examples, just to make sure you’ve got the hang of this.

Relative pronouns are italicized and antecedents are underlined.

I know the girl who is reading the book.
Where’s the book that you read?
There’s the woman that I told you about.

Russian’s relative pronouns

In Russian, you may use three different relative pronouns: который, кто, or что.


Который is used with noun antecedents. It is declined like a hard-stem adjective, and must have the same gender and number (singular or plural) as its antecedent. It is the most common relative pronoun.

Here’s some examples of который in use:

Я знаю девочку, которая читает книгу. = “I know the girl who is reading the book.”
(Я знаю девочку. Она читает книгу. = “I know the girl. She read the book.”)

Где книга, которую ты прочитала? = “Where’s the book that you read?”
(Где книга? Ты прочитала её. = “Where’s the book? You read it.”)

Вот женщина, о которой я тебе говорил. = “There’s the woman that I told you about.”
(Вот женщина. Я тебе говорил о ней. = “There’s the woman. I told you about her.”)

Notice that sentences with relative pronouns may be broke down and divided into two sentences, but they would sound irregular like this.

Кто and что

Кто and что are used with pronoun antecedents. It is important to note that кто and что are also interrogative pronouns. Typical antecedents of кто and что are тот (that), весь (all), каждый (every), and любой (any).

Here’s some examples of кто and что in use:

Те, кто читали книгу, были довольны ей. = “Those who read the book were pleased with it.”

Каждый, кто подходил к нему, поздравлял его. = “Everyone who approached him, congratulated him.”

Мы очень довольны тем, что он сделал. = “We were very pleased with (that), what he did.”

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