relative-clause

The Relative Clause in English | ABA English

The Relative Clause in English

You have definitely heard about the famous relative clause or relative sentences in English. Perhaps it has seemed like a somewhat difficult topic for you up to now. However, we are here to tell you that it is not.

This is a part of English grammar that you need to learn well because like many others because it will add variety and cohesion what you say. Using the relative clauses in English will show others that your level in the language is improving. Keep reading to find out how these clauses are formed and what they are used for.

Relative Clause Definition

As is the case in other languages, relative clauses and relative sentences in English have the function of adding relatively important information about the subject or object of the sentence. They are usually placed immediately after the noun to which they refer and are introduced by a relative pronoun or a relative adverb.

Relative pronouns serve to refer back to something that has already been mentioned in the sentence. The relative pronouns in English are: who, whom, which, whose, and that.

What Is a Relative Clause?

In English, there are two types of relative clauses: the restrictive relative clause and the nonrestrictive (or incidental) relative clause. Let’s take a look at the differences between them.

Restrictive Relative Clauses

Restrictive relative clauses provide indispensable information to identify the subject or the object of a sentence. Without this clause, the meaning of the sentence changes completely.

The restrictive clause comes immediately after the subject or object of the sentence. It is never separated from the other elements by punctuation.

The relative pronouns that introduce the restrictive clauses are as follows:

  • Relative clause of the subject
    Person: who, that
    Thing: which, that

    The man who is talking to Anne is my math teacher.
    The book which was published last year would be perfect for your exam.
  • Relative clause of the object
    Person: who, whom, that
    Thing: which, that

    The girl who you met this morning is my cousin.
    The book which I am reading is absolutely wonderful.
  • Possessive relative clause
    whose

    I have a friend whose dog won a prize in a competition.

When the subject of the relative clause is the object of the sentence, the relative pronoun may be omitted in spoken English.

She is the girl he was talking about.

This is the skirt I bought last week.

In informal English, we tend to prefer the relative pronoun that.

I am going to deliver the talk that I have prepared for the occasion.

This is the flat that I would like to buy.

Nonrestrictive Relative Clauses

Nonrestrictive relative clauses provide additional information about the subject or object of the sentence that is not essential to identify them and that does not change the meaning of the sentence. It comes immediately after the word to which it refers and is always secondary, that is, separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

The relative pronouns that introduce nonrestrictive relative clauses are as follows:

  • Relative clause of the subject
    Person: who
    Thing: which

    Mary, who was my classmate, graduated last year.
  • Relative clause of the object
    Person: who, whom
    Thing: which

    Doctor Smith, who I consider to be a very professional person, is retired now.
  • Possessive relative clause
    whose

    Judy, whose children are still going to school, is a young and dynamic lady.

Relative Clause Examples

Unlike the restrictive clause, in the nonrestrictive clause, the relative pronoun must always be expressed. Also, in the nonrestrictive clause, it is not possible to use the relative pronoun that.

But the most obvious difference is in the meaning. In fact, while they can sometimes look very similar, the meaning changes. In this case, the only way to identify them is through the absence or presence of commas. Remember: restrictive relative clauses never have commas while nonrestrictive clauses are always secondary.

 

Restrictive Nonrestrictive
Dario’s sister who works at the GP is named Gloria. Dario’s sister, who works at the GP, is named Gloria.
Dario has more than one sister. The relative clause is restrictive because it is essential to understand which sister is being talked about. Dario only has one sister. The relative clause is not restrictive since it is not essential to understand which sister is being talked about.

In general, relative clauses in English are much simpler than they seem at the beginning. If you think it is important to learn a language correctly and not to just make yourself understood, you are not the only one. ABA English currently has more than 17 million students who have chosen to improve their English through our natural and effective method. We offer you 144 free video classes and the same number of short films to help you learn English quickly and effortlessly. What are you waiting for?

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