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Relative clauses – non-defining relative clauses

Do you know how to give extra information about someone or something using relative clauses?

Look at these examples to see how non-defining relative clauses are used.

Jack, who's retired now, spends a lot of time with his grandchildren.
We want to see the new Tom Carter film, which was released on Friday.
My sister, whose dog I'm looking after, is visiting a friend in Australia.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar B1–B2: Relative clauses – non-defining relative clauses: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Relative clauses give us information about the person or thing mentioned.

Non-defining relative clauses give us extra information about someone or something. It isn't essential for understanding who or what we are talking about.

My grandfatherwho's 87, goes swimming every day.
The house, which was built in 1883, has just been opened to the public.
The award was given to Sara, whose short story impressed the judges

We always use a relative pronoun or adverb to start a non-defining relative clause: who, which, whose, when or where (but not that). We also use commas to separate the clause from the rest of the sentence.

who, which and whose

We can use who to talk about people, which to talk about things and whose to refer to the person or thing that something belongs to.

Yesterday I met my new boss, who was very nice.
The house, which is very big, is also very cold!
My next-door neighbour, whose children go to school with ours, has just bought a new car.
After the port there is a row of fisherman's houses, whose lights can be seen from across the bay.

Places and times

We can use which with a preposition to talk about places and times. In these cases it's more common to use where or when instead of which and the preposition.

City Park, which we used to go to, has been closed down.
City Park, where we used to go, has been closed down.
December, which Christmas is celebrated in, is a summer month for the southern hemisphere.
December, when Christmas is celebrated, is a summer month for the southern hemisphere.

However, when we use which without a preposition, we can't use where or when.

Centre Park, which we love, is always really busy on Saturdays.
February, which is my favourite month, lasts 29 days this year.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar B1–B2: Relative clauses – non-defining relative clauses: 2


Language level

Intermediate: B1


It's really helpful.

Could you explain for me? I'm getting confused why this sentence uses which instead of where
Vinh Long, which I visited recently, has grown to a very rich city over the pattern years.
Thank you.

Hello hanluna,

The verb visit takes a direct object.

Which is a relative pronoun and can be an object.

Where is a relative adverb and cannot be an object.


If you use a different verb, then it is possible to use where. For example:

Vinh Long, where I live, has grown to a very rich city over the pattern years.



The LearnEnglish Team

Just wanted to say thank you so much for this very helpful lesson about non-defining relative clauses, it helped a lot, as well as test!
Keep doing amazing job!

Hello, Could you help me please?
Why is it wrong to say?: "Winter, whose temperatures are lower, sees higher rainfall."

Hello Iago Liasch,

I don't see anything wrong with that sentence grammatically. It may be more common to say when instead of whose, but whose is not wrong here.



The LearnEnglish Team


Could you help understand who is the referent of 'which' in the following sentence?

'Key populations are distinct from vulnerable populations, which are subject to societal pressures or social circumstances that may make them more vulnerable to exposure to infections.

Thank you

Hello AlessD,

'Which' in this sentence refers to 'vulnerable populations'.



The LearnEnglish Team

please tell is if this a defining or a non defining relative clause because i am very confused about punctuation.should i put comma or not ?
"The people, who choose their life partners on their own, believe that they will be happier and more satisfied."

Hello Ambreen Safdar,

Although I can imagine a context in which it might be non-defining, I think it is most likely to be defining. The purpose of the clause is to identify which people you are talking about (this group of people not the others), rather than simply to provide extra information about a previously identified group.



The LearnEnglish Team