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Relative clauses - Easy Learning Grammar

Relative clauses tell us more about nouns. They function rather like adjectives, and are found as postmodifiers in a noun phrase. The noun that is modified is called the antecedent. Relative clauses normally begin with who, whom, whose, or that.These words are called relative pronouns. Note that some of them also function as interrogative pronouns. See also Relative pronouns.A relative pronoun can be the subject
  • The people who live upstairs are having a party.
  • The dog that bit me had to be put down.
or object
  • I don’t like the music that they are playing.
  • A man whom I met on holiday phoned last might.
of the verb in the relative clause. If it is the object, it can be left out in ordinary informal speech and writing.
  • I don’t like the music they are playing.
  • A man I met on holiday phoned last night.
Subject and object relative pronouns come at the beginning of the relative clause.
  • A relative pronoun can also be the object of a preposition.
  • It was definitely Diana to whom she was referring.
  • It’s a great game at which anyone can excel.
In informal English a relative clause can end in a preposition, especially if the relative pronoun is omitted.
  • It was definitely Diana (that) she was referring to.
  • It’s great game (which) anyone can excel at.

Defining and non-defining relative clauses

There are two sorts of relative clause.Some relative clauses act rather like an adjective by providing more information about a particular noun.
  • The people who live upstairs are having a party.
  • I don’t like the music that they’re playing.
  • The girl who was on the bus with us is called Sonia.
These are called defining relative clauses or restrictive relative clauses. A defining relative clause is never separated from the noun by a comma.The other type of relative clause adds extra information to the whole of the main clause. These are non-defining relative clauses or non-restrictive relative clauses. This type of clause is separated from the main clause by commas.
  • The man next door, who works from home, kept an eye on the house for us.
  • Thomas went home early, which was a relief to us all.
  • We stopped in Dryburgh, which is a good place for a picnic.
  • Compare:
  • Defining.
  • My brother who lives in Canada is a lawyer.
  • (There are several brothers. The Canadian one is a lawyer.)
  • Non-defining.
  • My brother, who lives in Canada, is a lawyer.
  • (There is only one brother. He is a lawyer. He happens to live in Canada.)

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