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Relative Clauses

What are Relative Clauses?
These words add “something more” about the subject in the sentence. They are also known as adjective clause. We can use relative clauses to join two English sentences, or to give more information about something. As the name suggests, Relative clauses give essential information to define or identify the person or thing we are talking about.

Look at chart given below:

Relative Clause

Can you complete the sentence adding subject to these sentences?
A relative clause is a subordinate clause that modifies a noun/ or a pronoun. They are most often used to define or identify the noun that precedes them.

For example:
  • Can you return my book that I gave you last week?
  • Who is that man whose shoes are torn?
  • I want to stay in a town, which is very green.
  • Please pick up your clothes, which are scattered all over the house.
  • 2007 was the year when I graduated from college.
  • Do you know the girl who started in grade 5 last week?

Related Calculators
Calculate Relative Frequency Relative Standard Deviation Calculator

Types of Relative Clauses

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  Who / that refer to people    They caught the man Who / that spied for china. 
  Which / that refer to objects    I lost the map which / that she gave me.
  Whose refers to possession    She complained to the man whose dog bit her.
  When refers to a moment in time    Christmas Day is a day when people are happy.
  Where refers to a particular place    We visited the house where our father was born.
 In non-defining sentences, the word that         cannot replace who or which   Mata Hari, who was a famous female spy, was born in holland. Buckingham   Palace, which is in London,is a favourite tourist site.

Functions of Relative Clauses: (adjective clause)

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Let us examine the many functions of a relative clause.  By now, we know that relative clause add detail to the noun that precedes it.
OK!  So what?  You may ask. 

We use relative clauses to describe the noun, its position, when things need to be completed or when explaining how a task is to be done.  

For example: 
  • Go and speak to Mr Henry who is in the Human Resource Department. “who is in the Human Resource Departmentis the relative clause that describes Mr. Henry.
  • Let us use the book that will help us on fixing the leaky tap. “that will help us on fixing the leaky tapis the relative clause that explains how to get the tap fixed
  • Go by Dallas which will get you there on time. “Which will get you there on timeis the relative clause that explains how to complete the task

Relative Clause Examples

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Go through the following sentences and pick out the relative clauses:
  1. I love going to the beach, which is so relaxing. 
  2. The dog who has golden hair is very well- behaved.
  3. I would rather take the flight, which will get me there in time. 
  4. Money buys most things that is why it so important. 
  5. I gave her the pen, which was mine. 

Defining Relative Clause

These clauses are very important for the clear understanding of the sentences. That is without them the sentence would lack meaning.  Defining relative clauses or identifying relative clauses or restrictive relative clauses give detailed information defining a general term or expression.

Example: Defining Relative Clause

  1. The woman who is sitting on the bench is my neighbour. In this sentence if we remove italicized clause "who is sitting on the bench" from the sentence, the entire meaning of the sentence would be lost.
  2. The book that I want to buy is not here. In this sentence if we remove the clause that "I want to buy", the meaning of the sentence changes.

Non Defining Relative Clause: 

Unlike defining, non-defining relative clause are not so vital to the meaning of the sentence. The meaning of the sentence stays the same whether we use the clause or not. Non-defining relative clauses or non-identifying relative clauses or non-restrictive relative clauses give additional information on something, but do not define it. They only add interesting details to the sentence.

  1. My son Ravi, who works in the IT industry, has gone to America. In this sentence if we remove the italicized clause, who works in the IT industry the meaning of the sentence is not altered. The relative clause "who works in the IT industry" only add some information about the subject.
  2. William Shakespeare, who wrote Seven Ages of Man, was born in UK. Similarly, in this sentence we see that removing the clause does not change the meaning of the sentence.

Point to note: Correct Punctuation is very important when we are using a relative clause.  When we are using the clause as non-defining, we should use a comma as in above example. On the other hand, when it is used as a defining relative clause we do not need the comma.

Correct Punctuation

Complete the exercise sentences with the right Relative Clause. (Which / that/ who / where/whose/when)
  1. We bought a house ………… is 200 years old.
  2. Yesterday I called our friend Jonathan, …………… lives in New York.
  3. The people …………. live on the island are very friendly.
  4. She loves the chocolate ………….. I bought.
  5. My boss, ……….. is very nice, lives in Manchester.
  6. My mother's house, …………. I grew up in, is very small.
  7. I'm looking for a secretary ………………. can use a computer well.
  8. The photographer called to the Lawyer, …………. looked annoyed.
  9. The heavy rain, ………….. was unusual for the time of year, destroyed most of the plants in my garden.
  10. My eldest son, …………….. work takes him all over the world, is in Canada at the moment.
More topics in Relative Clauses
Non-Defining Relative Clauses
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