Relative (adjective) Clause

Adjective (Relative) clause

 Adjective clause (Relative clause) 

 An adjective clause is a dependent clause that contains a subject and a verbIt describes,identifies, or gives further information about a noun (pronoun)

Adjective Clauses are introduced by the following words: whowhomwhosewhichthat,where, or when.


1. It will contain a subject and verb.  (S+V)

2. it will begin with a relative pronoun or a relative adverb.

 Relative pronoun 

 Relative adverb 


3. It will function as an adjective,answering questions

Such as :
・What kind?
・How many?
・Which one?

The adjective clause will follow one of these two patterns:

Pattern 1:

・Do you know the boy whose mother is a nurse?
・The day when we met him was very cold.
・I was invited by the professor whom I met at the conference.
・That's why I hate you.

Pattern 2: 

・I told you about the woman who lives next door.
・Do you see the cat which is lying on the roof?
・He couldn’t read which surprised me.
・I don’t like the car that parked on the street .

 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?

 Prepositions that Come before Adjective Clauses 

 Sometimes the verb in an adjective clause must have a preposition used with it (a phrasal verb). In this case, the last word of the sentence may be a preposition.

  In spoken English, this is fine. However, in formal written English, the preposition is usually moved to the beginning of the clause.

・He was the man to whom I was referring. formal
・He was the man whom I was referring to. informal

・There are a number of ways by which a message can be sent. formal
・There are a number of ways which a message can be sent by. informal

 Omission of the Relative Pronoun 

 Sometimes the relative pronoun may be omitted from an adjective clause.

 The relative pronouns whichthatwho, and whom can be omitted when they are the object of the adjective clause.

・The man whom I met was a Native American.(Object)
The man I met was a Native American.

The drumbeat that I heard was a signal. (object)
The drumbeat I heard was a signal.

When the relative pronoun is the subject of the relative clause, it cannot be omitted.

The man who played the drums was from West Africa. (subject)
The man played the drums was from West Africa. (incorrect)

 Reduced Adjective Clauses 

 Adjective clauses can be reduced to phrases. An adjective phrase does not contain either a subject or a verb, and it modifies a noun.

 Also, only adjective clauses that have a subject pronoun – whowhich, or that – can be reduced. There are two ways to reduce an adjective clause:

1.The subject pronoun and the "be" form of the verb are omitted.

・Clause: The man who is playing is my friend.
・Phrase: The man playing is my friend.("who is" is omitted. )

・Clause: The signals, which are given, are simple.
・Phrase: The signals given are simple.("which are" is omitted.)

2. When there is no form of "be" in the adjective clause, you may omit thesubject pronoun and change the verb to the “–ing” form (participle).


・Clause: Anyone who wants to get the news can listen to the message.
・Phrase: Anyone wanting to get the news can listen to the message.
("who" is omitted and "wants" is changed to "wanting")

・Clause: His alphabet, which consists of 85 sounds, was an important invention for his people.
・Phrase: His alphabet, consisting of 85 sounds, was an important invention for his people.
("which" is omitted and "consists" is changed to "consisting")

 Restrictive and Non-restrictive Relative clause 
( Also called Defining and Non-defining)

Restrictive means :

– essential to the meaning 
– limits or defines the word it modifies
– therefore, it should not be bracketed off by commas

Non-restrictive means:

– extra
– non-essential to the meaning
– interestinghelpful, but not necessary
– does not limit or define the word it modifies
– therefore, it can be bracketed off by commas

 An English non-restrictive relative clause is preceded by a pause in speech or a comma in writing,whereas a restrictive clause normally is not.

  Compare the following sentences, which have two quite different meanings, and correspondingly two clearly distinguished intonation patterns, depending on whether the commasare inserted:


1.The builder, who erects very fine houses, will make a large profit.

2.The builder who erects very fine houses will make a large profit.

 The 1st examplewith commas, and with 3 short intonation curves, contains a non-restrictive relative clause. It refers to a specific builder, and assumes we know which builder is intended. It tells us firstly about his houses, then about his profits.

  The 2nd example uses a restrictive relative clauseWithout the commas, and with a single intonation curve, the sentence states that any builder who builds such houses will make profits.

In non-restrictive relative clauses, <strong>who/which may not be replaced with that.

Object pronouns in non-restrictive relative clauses must be used.