[BCH] Relative clauses

pato.lady.libertyWe use relative clauses to give additional information about something without starting another sentence. By combining sentences with a relative, your text becomes more fluent and you can avoid repeating certain words. [Review Unit 6 –2ºBCH– or Unit 7 –1ºBCH–]

How to Form Relative Clauses

Imagine, a girl is talking to Tom. You want to know who she is and ask a friend whether he knows her. You could say:

A girl is talking to Tom. Do you know the girl?

That sounds rather complicated, doesn’t it? It would be easier with a relative clause: you put both pieces of information into one sentence. Start with the most important thing  – you want to know who the girl is.

Do you know the girl …

As your friend cannot know which girl you are talking about, you need to put in the additional information  – the girl is talking to Tom. Use „the girl“ only in the first part of the sentence, in the second part replace it with the relative pronoun (for people, use the relative pronoun „who“). So the final sentence is:

Do you know the girl who is talking to Tom?

Relative Pronouns

relative pronoun use example
who subject or object pronoun for people I told you about the woman who lives next door.
which subject or object pronoun for animals and things Do you see the cat which is lying on the roof?
which referring to a whole sentence He couldn’t read which surprised me.
whose possession for people animals and things Do you know the boy whose mother is a nurse?
whom object pronoun for people, especially in non-defining relative clauses (in defining relative clauses we colloquially prefer who) I was invited by the professor whom I met at the conference.
that subject or object pronoun for people, animals and things in defining relative clauses (who or which are also possible) I don’t like the table that stands in the kitchen.

Relative Adverbs

A relative adverb can be used instead of a relative pronoun plus preposition. This often makes the sentence easier to understand.

This is the shop in which I bought my bike.
→ This is the shop where I bought my bike.

relative adverb meaning use example
when in/on which refers to a time expression the day when we met him
where in/at which refers to a place the place where we met him
why for which refers to a reason the reason why we met him

Defining Relative Clauses

Defining relative clauses (also called identifying relative clauses or restrictive relative clauses) give detailed information defining a general term or expression. Defining relative clauses are not put in commas.

Imagine, Tom is in a room with five girls. One girl is talking to Tom and you ask somebody whether he knows this girl. Here the relative clause defines which of the five girls you mean.

Do you know the girl who is talking to Tom?

Defining relative clauses are often used in definitions.

A seaman is someone who works on a ship.

Object pronouns in defining relative clauses can be dropped. (Sentences with a relative clause without the relative pronoun are called Contact Clauses.)

The boy (whom/who/that/ø) we met yesterday is very nice.

Non-Defining Relative Clauses

Non-defining relative clauses (also called non-identifying relative clauses or non-restrictive relative clauses) give additional information on something, but do not define it. Non-defining relative clauses are put in commas.

Imagine, Tom is in a room with only one girl. The two are talking to each other and you ask somebody whether he knows this girl. Here the relative clause is non-defining because in this situation it is obvious which girl you mean.

Do you know the girl, who is talking to Tom?

Note: In non-defining relative clauses, who/which may not be dropped nor replaced with that.

Pronouns:
Exercise on Relative Pronouns
Subject Pronouns or Object Pronouns?
Relative Pronouns – Necessary or not?
Relative Pronouns – Necessary or not?
Relative Adverbs
Relative Pronouns in the Text „Stonehenge“ (who/which)
Clauses:
Relative Clauses - Formation
Contact Clauses
Definitions with Relative Clauses
Relative Clauses - defining or non-defining?
Non-Defining Relative Clauses
Forming Relative Clauses - defining and non-defining
Relative Clauses in the Text „San Francisco“
Tests: Level 1 • Level 2 • Level 3 • Level 4

•Apart from that, you have a lot of exercises on line at three levels here.

Here you’ll find a grammar explanation; and more exercises online (or in PDF) here.

•And some exercises on relative clause rephrasing here.


⇒You know: a screenshot or a snapshot to my mail, apart from the comment down here. The more exercises you do, the better; that will show your interest, which I will assess. Deadline: Friday, the 18th of August.

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