I'm an English learner and today I faced a question where I was supposed to fill in the missing blank. The question was:

The large family _____ house had been destroyed by the storm was invited to stay at a hotel.

There were multiple options including:

i) whose

ii) that its

Can someone explain why option (ii) is wrong while option (i) is correct?

What is the grammar involved here?


'Whose' is a possessive word, when spoken it sounds like 'Who's' which is 'Who is', so if you come across any of us native speakers sending you a message like so...

'Who's house is that?' they mean to say 'Whose'

Whose house had been destroyed?
His house, their house, the family's house, they own it.

The second option,'That its' does not make any sense at all in this context.


You could, if you wanted, say "the large family of which the house...", although this would be very formal, almost stilted.

However, you absolutely can't say "the large family that its house" (at least not with the meaning you've suggested - see note below.) "Which its" and "who its" would be wrong too.

The usual and correct phrasing is "the large family whose house...".

NB. In English, if you say "the large family which its..." or "the large family that its..." or "the large family which it..." then the "it" or "its" should refer back to a noun other than the large family. For example, "A small family used to live there. The large family that its house was bought by now enjoyed the benefits" = the large family that the small family's house was bought by. (It would be more straightforward to say "the large family that bought its house", but my point is that "...that its..." can work but has a different meaning from the one you proposed.)


English makes no sense, rule #1 :)

A good trick is to make a question and see which one sounds better.

Whose house had been destroyed by the storm? The large family's house had been destroyed.

You must log in to answer this question.