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Junior and senior high students here are now busy doing some last minute stuff for the term-end exams. In case you don't know...Japan's school year begins in April, and almost all schools adopt a three-term year system. The first term ends in late July. Students have to go through the tough exams before enjoying the sweet summer vacation. That said, a lot of kids are busy even during the vacation attending club activities or juku (cram schools).

Two high school juniors e-mailed me yesterday asking for an extra lesson for the English grammar exam given on Monday. So, I found time for them this morning. They were struggling with the "Relative Pronoun."

The relative pronoun is generally taught by combining two sentences into one, which seems to make the tough stuff more complicated for the students.

I know the boy. Taro is talking with him.

I know the boy with whom Taro is talking.
I know the boy whom Taro is talking with.
I know the boy that Taro is talking with.
I know the boy Taro is talking with.

Which would you prefer? :)

Oh yeah, let me give you a question that is typical in high school English exams, just for fun:

Fill in the blank using a relative pronoun:

Mr. Smith is a lawyer ( ) I think is trustworthy.

Well, so I answered their questions and gave some important points to learn. The girls are to e-mail me if they have more questions. Of course, they do so via their cell phones. They are...

今時の女子高生 imadokino joshikousei (high school girls nowadays)

Oh, just got a mail from one of them.


I'd say, "I know the boy Taro is talking with." For the next one I'd say the lawyer sentence just as it is, without adding anything. "Mr. Smith is a lawyer I think is trustworthy." If I were writing and wanted to be less colloquial, I'd add "who." I don't know if that's technically correct though! What are the correct exam answers?

I'd say "I know the boy with whom Taro is talking." is probably grammatically correct- don't want to end the sentence with a preposition. It sounds rather stilted though. In my area (Tennessee) you would probably hear "I know the boy that Taro is talking to."
I would also pick 'who' as grammatically correct for "Mr. Smith is a lawyer (who) I think is trustworthy."

Yes, Fran and Stephen, "who" is gramatically correct for the question, because the sentence should be "I think 'he' is trustworthy."

It's questions like these that make me glad I'm studying Japanese not English.

On the plus side for English though, in conversation you could say any of these sentences and the person you are talking to (that is to say, the person to whom you are talking) would understand you.