A Quick Reference Guide for Relative Clauses

What are the basics?

We know that relative clauses modify nouns. This explains why they are sometimes called adjective clauses. Unlike adjectives, relative clauses come after the noun they modify.

Courtesy of blog.powerscore.com

Courtesy of blog.powerscore.com

What kinds are there?

Relative clauses can be either restrictive or nonrestrictive. Some people use other words to classify them, but they have the same meaning. Restrictive clauses identify the noun that is being modified. Nonrestrictive clauses simply add information about the noun. Notice the difference here.

  • The boy who had his birthday party here was sick.
  • The boy, who is ten years old, is sick.

What about the pronouns?

There is a set of pronouns that is usually used with relative clauses. These are called relative pronouns. The most common relative pronouns are that, who, and which. Sometimes the pronoun can be omitted altogether.

When do we use these pronouns?

The most commonly used relative pronoun is that. It can be used with people or things. For people we can also use who or whom. Who is used for subjects and whom is used for objects. Many people use who for both. Which is used with things.

Do I have to use a relative pronoun?

No, sometimes it is possible to omit the relative pronoun. When the relative clause is for an object, the relative pronoun can be omitted. They cannot usually be omitted when the relative clause is for the subject.

These are some basic questions and answers about relative clauses. In our Grammar and Writing level 4 class, we go in to more detail about these clauses. If you are up for a challenge, try to find out what information I have left out. You can bring it to class or post it online.

Kody, Level 4 Writing Instructor

Kody, Level 4 Writing Instructor


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