I am always confused about the position a relative pronoun must be when I need to join two sentences. Which sentence should I have to start? Do I need to use commas? If I don't use commas, is it also correct? Which one is correct:

The man is a very famous writer. You have just met the man. The man, who you have just met, is a famous writer. The man you have just met is a famous writer.


Both your solutions are grammatical, as is third possibility The man who you have just met is a famous writer.

However, the first one, with the commas, has a different meaning from the other two.

With the commas, the relative clause is a "non-restrictive" or "commenting" relative clause. It does not specify the man, but makes an incidental comment about him. It therefore only makes sense if "The man" is adequate in context to specify who you are talking about.

The other two, without the commas, have a "restrictive" or "defining" relative clause, where the clause "who you have just met" defines or specifies the man.

  • I got the idea. What about these sentences: The teacher retired 10 years ago. Everybody loved the teacher. Is it ok to use commas? (The teacher, everybody loved, retired 10 years ago) Is it ok without comma? (The teacher everybody loved retired 10 years ago) The teacher who everybody loved retired 10 years ago. Mar 9 '17 at 23:06
  • 1
    Not quite. You can omit the relative pronoun as long as both these conditions hold: 1) it is not functioning as the subject of the relative clause; 2) the relative clause is a restrictive one (without commas).. So the last two sentence are OK, but not the first one in brackets.
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 10 '17 at 12:17
  1. Suppose that we were facing a group of people that included several girls and women, but only one man. The words “the man” could refer to one person. You might say “The man is a famous writer,” and there would be no misunderstanding. In that case the words “whom you have just met” might as well be in parenthesis. They don’t restrict the meaning of the words “the man.” Because the words "whom you just met" are not restrictive, they should be in commas: The man, whom you just met, is a famous writer.
  2. Suppose instead that we were facing a group that included several men, but you had just met only one of them. The words “the man” could refer to lots of people, but “the man whom you just met” refers to only one man. Now the words “whom you just met” are restrictive. So there should be no commas: The man whom you just met is a famous writer.

I think that there's something more to your question, but I don't understand what it is.

  • I got the idea. My problem is that I never know from which sentence I need to start and then include the pronoun on the write position, with or without commas. Mar 9 '17 at 23:01

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