I have some doubts about the usages of that and who. Sometimes I read sentences such as

  • You are someone I love.
  • You are someone who I love.
  • People were asked to describe the qualities they look for in a friend.
  • People were asked to describe the qualities that they look for in a friend.

Why are who or that omitted in some of these sentences but not in others?

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    Why is because you can: you are free to omit who or that heading a restrictive relative clause if it is not the subject of that clause. (In speech, in many dialects, you can omit the relativizer even if it is the subject.) Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. It's entirely up to you. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 25 '14 at 1:59
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    @user73105 Instinctively, "you are someone "who" I love" sounds weird to my ear. I wouldn't say that it's grammatically incorrect though. But, it just doesn't sound as natural to my ear as "you're someone (that) I love." – Elian Apr 25 '14 at 2:43
  • Many times words may be omitted in speech. Generally, I would prefer the active voice, "I love you". "You're someone that I love" is passive voice. – Elliott Frisch Apr 25 '14 at 3:25

What you are discussing is called an elliptical clause (or an elliptical adjective clause, or an elliptical bound relative clause) whereby we drop the relative pronoun in an adjective clause where the pronoun is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.

To quote an online resource:

Elliptical Clauses are grammatically incomplete in the sense that they are missing either the relative pronoun (dependent word) that normally introduces such a clause or something from the predicate in the second part of a comparison. The missing parts of the elliptical clause can be guessed from the context and most readers are not aware that anything is missing. In fact, elliptical clauses are regarded as both useful and correct, even in formal prose, because they are often elegant, efficient means of expression. (The omitted words are noted in brackets below).

Coach Espinoza knew [that] this team would be the best [that] she had coached in recent years. Though [ they were] sometimes nervous on the court, her recruits proved to be hard workers. Sometimes the veterans knew the recruits could play better than they [could play].


In regards to why it is appropriate, it is simply a matter of usage.

People dropped the relative pronoun for so long that omitting it became acceptable grammatical usage.

In other words, all of your sentences are correct, and you do not need to fret about one being superior to the other.

Have a nice day.


Correct is '...whom I love' because a person is being referred to is the object and not the subject. Correct is '...that they look for...' because now we don't refer to a person and again we refer to the object. Or you might say '...which are looked for..' because now the subject is referred to.

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