Clauses with whose

We use relative clause beginning with the relative pronoun whose + noun, particularly in written English, when we talk about something belonging to or associated with a person, animal or plant:

Jonson is an architect whose designs have won international praise.

Mary was taking care of rabbit whose ears were badly damaged in a fight with a cat.

We can use whose in both defining and non-defining relative clauses.

We generally avoid using whose to talk about something belonging to or associated with a thing:

I received a letter, and its poor spelling made me think it was written by a child. (more natural than "I received a letter, whose poor spelling made me think...")

However, we sometimes use whose when we talk about towns, countries, or organisations:

The film was made in Nigeria, whose wildlife parks are larger than those in Kenia.

We need to learn from companies whose trading is more healthy than our own.

In academic writing whose is used to talk about a wide variety of "belonging to" relationships:

Students are encouraged to use an appropriate theory in order to solve problems whose geographical limits are clear.


Clauses with when, whereby, where and why

We can begin relative and other clauses with when (referring to time), whereby (method or means; used mainly in formal contexts), and where (location). In formal English in particular, a phrase with

preposition + which can often be used instead of these:

He wasn't looking forward to the time when he would have to leave. (or ...the time at which...)

Do you know the date when we have to hand in the essay? (or ...the date on/by which...)

The government is to end the system whereby (="by which means") farmers make more money from leaving land unplanted that from growing wheat. (or ...the system in/by which farmers...)

This was the place where we first met. (or ...the place at/in which we...)

In academic English, we can also use where to refer to relationships other than location, particularly after words such as case, condition, example, situation, system:

Later in this chapter we will introduce cases where consumer complaints have resulted in changes in the law. (or more formally ... cases in which...)

We can also use a/the reason why or a/the reason that or just a/the reason:

I didn't get a pay rise, but this wasn't the reason why I left. (or ...the reason (that) I left.)


Clauses with who and what; whatever, whatever and whichever

Some clauses beginning with a wh-word are used like a noun phrase in a sentence. These are sometimes called nominal relative clauses:

Can you give me a list of who's been invited? (=the people who have been invited)

I didn't know what I should do next. (=the thing that I should do next)

Notice that we can't use what in this way after a noun:

I managed to get all the books that you asked for. (not ...all the books what you asked for)

We use clauses beginning with whatever (=anything or it doesn't matter what), whoever (=person/group who or any person/group who), or whichever (=one thing or person from a limited number, to

talk about things or people that are indefinite or unknown:

I'm sure I'll enjoy eating whatever you cook.

Whoever wins will go on to play Barcelona in the final.

Whichever one of you broke the window will have to pay for it.