Relative Clause

A relative clause is a clause introduced by a relative pronoun like who or which.

Two common types of relative clauses exit: defining (or identifying) relative clause and non-defining (or non-identifying) relative clause.

An identifying relative clause identifies the noun it refers to – that is to say, it tells us which person or thing is being talked about.

Consider the example given below.

  • People who take physical exercise live longer.

Here the relative clause is who take physical exercise. This relative clause is identifying, since it is required for identification: without it, we would have only People live longer, which does not identify the people under discussion.

Other examples are given below.

  • The restaurant which we visited last night was pretty good.
  • Paris is a city I have always wanted to visit.
  • She married a man that she met on a bus.

Identifying relative clauses usually follow immediately after the nouns that they modify, without a break: they are not separated by commas in writing. This is because the noun would be incomplete without the relative clause, and the sentence would make no sense or have a different meaning.

A non-defining relative clause is not required for identification. It serves only to provide additional information. Non-identifying clauses are normally separated by commas.

  • Janet, who does my hair, has moved to another hairdresser’s.

Here the relative clause is who does my hair. This relative clause is non-identifying, since it is not required to identify Janet: it merely provides additional information.

Another example is given below.

  • She married a smart architect from Beijing, whom she met on a bus.

Relative adverb

An adverb which introduces a relative clause. The English relative adverbs are where, when, wherever and whenever.

  • The day when I met John was the best day of my life.
  • Alice takes her cell phone wherever she goes.
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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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