Conjunctions connect the clauses of compound sentences.

@ The Relative Pronoun КОТОРЫЙ @

One type of subordinate clause in Russian is conjoined by a pronoun, the relative pronoun который "who, which, that". Actually, который behaves like a conjunction, in that is conjoins a subordinate clause, and like a pronoun in that it agrees with some noun in the main clause as well as reflects the case of the subordinate clause in which it occurs. Который introduces a sentence that modifies a noun. For this reason it has to agree in number and gender with the noun it modifies like adjectives. However, unlike regular adjectives, it does not agree with that noun in case; rather, it reflects the case of its function in the subordinate clause.

English has relative clauses, too. For example, There is the man whom I met yesterday. Notice that in formal English, we use the accusative whom to indicate that the relative pronoun who is the direct object of the subordinate clause. Since English does not have gender, and who does not express number, there is no agreement between whom and man. In fact, since agreement is rather marginal in English, we are free to substitute the more common conjunction "that" (the man that I met yesterday) or, indeed, omit the conjunction altogether (the man ____ I met yesterday).

Russian is different in all these respects. In Russian you may use only который; you may neither substitute что or omit который. Thus, Вот мужчина, с которым я вчера познакомился is the only translation of all the English variants in the preceding paragraph.

Вот мужчина, с которым я вчера
There is the man who(m) I met yesterday
There is the man that I met yesterday
There is the man I met yesterday

Moreover, notice that которым agrees in gender (masculine) and number (singular) with the noun to which it connects the subordinate clause. However, it reflects the case demanded by the preposition с, the instrumental, in the clause it introduces.

Speaking of prepositions, we do an odd thing in English with prepositions that you can't do in Russian. In English, when we move the relative pronoun out to the front of the subordinate clause, we usually leave any preposition that goes with it back in its original position in the clause, e.g. Is this the man who(m) he walks to work with  x every Friday? Notice that, in a sense, the who(m) belongs to the preposition with back in the middle of the subordinate clause. It sounds a little high-phaluting in English to say, Is this the man with whom he walks to work every Friday? but this is exactly the form that all Russian relative clauses MUST have: Это мужчина, с которым он ходит на работу по пятницам? It is impossible to strand prepositions in Russian sentences as we do in English because prepositions and the case they demand must stay together.

Practice with these examples. Some Examples Practice with these examples

Here are a few examples for your amusement. Read them over carefully, comparing them with the translations and the agreement patterns of который and how they translate into English. Then try the study exercises that follow.

Russian Relative Clauses
Девушка, которая любит собак, моя близкая подруга.
The girl who loves dogs is my close friend.
Пальто, которое сейчас на нём, сшила его мать.
His mother sewed the coat (that) he is now wearing.
Я не видел спектакль, о котором вы говорите.
I didn't see the play you all are talking about.
Мы приехали на автобусе, из которого Маша сейчас выходит.
We arrived on the bus Masha is just now coming out of.

Here are some interactive exercises. Click Here for Study Exercises Here are some interactive exercises.

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© 1996 Robert Beard