Relative clauses – defining relative clauses

 

 

Relative clauses – defining relative clauses

Relative clauses add extra information to a sentence by defining a noun. They are usually divided into two types – defining relative clauses and non-defining relative clauses.

Defining relative clauses

Look at this sentence:

  • The woman who lives next door works in a bank.

who lives next door’ is a defining relative clause. It tells us which woman we are talking about.

Look at some more examples:

  • Look out! There’s the dog that bit my brother.
  • The film that we saw last week was awful.
  • This is the skirt I bought in the sales.

Can you identify the defining relative clauses? They tell us which dog, which film and which skirt we are talking about.

Relative pronouns

Relative clauses are often introduced by a relative pronoun (usually who, which, that, but when, where and whose are also possible)

With defining relative clauses we can use who or that to talk about people.

  • She’s the woman who cuts my hair.
  • She’s the woman that cuts my hair.

And we can use that or which to talk about things.

  • The dog that bit my brother.
  • The dog which bit my brother.

It is also sometimes possible to omit the relative pronoun.

  • This is the skirt that I bought in the sales.
  • This is the skirt which I bought in the sales.
  • This is the skirt I bought in the sales.

In this sentence ‘skirt’ is the object of the verb (buy). ‘I’ is the subject. When the relative pronoun is the object, it can be omitted.

  • The film we saw last week was awful.
  • BUT The dog bit my brother. This is not possible because the dog is the subject of the verb, ‘bite’.

 

Exercise