For words that sit as placeholders for other words (and introduce subordinate clauses), is there a name?

For example,

The quick brown fox that jumped over the lazy dog.

The man who killed the cyclops.

What are these words called? (aside from "pronoun" or "demonstrative pronoun" for the case of terms like this and that [depending on usage])

They basically function as placeholders for other clauses or nouns.

2 Answers 2


It could be a relative pronoun if you consider the first part as a clause without the "This is":

[This is] The quick brown fox that jumped over the lazy dog.
[This is] The man who killed the cyclops.

All the other grammatical conjunctions (Coordinating conjunctions, Correlative conjunctions or Subordinating conjunctions) don't include 'who' or 'that'.

  • what might be interesting are the names we give to "there" and "where". As far as I know, "there" is usually called an adverb, but "where" an adverbial relative pronoun. This feels lacking, because there-where should be analogous to it-which (or that[dem.]-that[rel.] etc.). I propose that everyone call "there" an adverbial demonstrative pronoun from now on. What say you all? Dec 28, 2010 at 15:45

See the Wikipedia page on Restrictiveness :

...restrictive clauses are often headed by the relative pronoun "that" or by a zero relative pronoun

Thus, wiki says tis a relative pronoun.

  • Cool! Thanks for the link! I have never heard of "zero relative pronouns" before, but that makes a lot of sense.
    – sova
    Dec 28, 2010 at 20:45

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