Correct use of adjective clauses

An adjective clause is a type of subordinate clause which cannot be a sentence alone. Just like adjectives, adjective clauses are also used to modify nouns.

Adjective clauses are useful in a sentence. They are usually introduced by the relative pronouns who, which, that, whom and whose.

Relative pronouns are important connecting devices.

Read the sentences given below.

We can combine these two clauses using the relative pronoun which or that.

Note that clauses introduced by relative pronouns can also be called relative clauses.

More examples are given below.

Adjective clauses go immediately after the noun they modify.

Adjective clauses introduced by which can modify not only a noun, but also the whole of a previous clause. Adjective clauses introduced by what and that cannot do this.

Read the examples given below.

Here the adjective clause which made Shyam jealous refers to the whole clause I had lunch with Ravi.

Avoid unnecessary adjective clauses

Although adjective clauses are quite useful, they are not always necessary. For example, adjective clauses are not necessary to add information related to appearance or emotional states. You can usually express that idea using a single-word adjective.

Read the sentence given below. It contains an adjective clause.

It is possible to express the same idea using a single-word adjective.

The sentence given above is more concise and hence better than the one containing the adjective clause.


Do not write a clause if you can express the same idea using a phrase. Do not write a phrase if you can express the same idea using a word.

Another example is given below.

It is possible to reduce the adjective clause (that is very crowded) into a single-word adjective (crowded).

Note: Adjective clauses usually go after the nouns they modify. Adjectives usually go before the nouns they modify.

To describe the characteristics of a noun, use a prepositional phrase (with + object) instead of an adjective clause.


The sentence given above contains an adjective clause (who have aged parents and dependent children). However, it is not necessary because the same idea can be expressed with a prepositional phrase.

Now the sentence becomes more concise and better.

Another example is given below.

The same idea can be expressed using a prepositional phrase.

It is possible to replace the adjective clause that has two tails with a prepositional phrase with two tails.

See also

Adverb clauses
Adjective clauses
Noun clauses
Transformation of sentences


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