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Relative clauses – defining relative clauses

Do you know how to define who or what you are talking about using relative clauses?

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

Are you the one who sent me the email?
The phone which has the most features is also the most expensive.
This is the video that I wanted to show you.
The person they spoke to was really helpful.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

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

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

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

Defining relative clauses give us essential information – information that tells us who or what we are talking about.

The woman who lives next door works in a bank. 
These are the flights that have been cancelled.

We usually use a relative pronoun or adverb to start a defining relative clause: who, which, that, when, where or whose.


We can use who or that to talk about people. that is more common and a bit more informal.

She's the woman who cuts my hair.
He's the man that I met at the conference.


We can use which or that to talk about things. that is more common and a bit more informal.

There was a one-year guarantee which came with the TV.
The laptop that I bought last week has started making a strange noise!

Other pronouns

when can refer to a time.

Summer is the season when I'm happiest.

where can refer to a place.

That's the stadium where Real Madrid play.

whose refers to the person that something belongs to.

He's a musician whose albums have sold millions. 

Omitting the relative pronoun

Sometimes we can leave out the relative pronoun. For example, we can usually leave out who, which or that if it is followed by a subject.

The assistant [that] we met was really kind.
   (we = subject, can omit that)

We can't usually leave it out if it is followed by a verb.

The assistant that helped us was really kind.
   (helped = verb, can't omit that)

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

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

Language level

Intermediate: B1


Hello, dear teacher.
What is the function of the relative pronoun "that" in the case of the following sentence?

"This is due to the belief that even the dullest work is better than idleness"

Or is it the case of an introductory relative adverb?

Hello algnzl

In this case, 'that' is best described as a conjunction.

There are quite a few nouns (such as 'belief') that can be followed by a 'that' clause to express opinions and feelings.

You can read a little more about this in the Postmodifiers section of our Noun phrases page as well as this dictionary page.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

I want you to answer these questions
1. I am always in a struggle with this sentence:
Dual language commentary where available
I cannot understand why they do not add ”is” before ” available ”
2. Is it correct to say that every noun which has ”ion” after is adjective? Because this cannot be correct if this word put in here:
Assassination foundation
Thank you so much for receiving

Hi NoobsDeath,

The first sentence is abbreviated in some way, and is not a full sentence grrammatically. Without knowing the context I can't say what information has been omitted, but it could be something like this:

We offer dual language commentary where available.

I prefer dual language commentary where available.

Please arrange dual language commentary where available.

Dual language commentary is provided where available.


The suffix -ion is generally associated with nouns rather than adjectives.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for replying.
I am in struggle in these things:
1. What the differences between
You cannot be doing that
You cannot do that
Secondly, I definitely suprised 'cause some newspaper of some native speaking countries write like this:
Manchester City get banned for attempting UCL for 2 years.
Bayern win 7-0 on aggregate.As Robben thresh Barca.
All these words are written by native speakers. How can some native speakers or some foundations such as EUFA get wrong with present simple.
Hope you reply me soon

Hello NoobsDeath

'get banned' and 'win' are correct present simple forms here. In British English, very often when we refer to a group (such as 'Manchester City' or 'Bayern', which are of course football teams consisting of many people), we use a plural verb even though the noun is grammatically singular. This is why 'get' and 'win' are correct here. I don't understand how a title says 'Robben thresh Barça', as clearly Robben is an individual; I would write 'threshes'.

As for your first question, I'm afraid it's difficult to explain why one form or the other is used without having some kind of context, but in general the first form suggests that the action is in progress, whereas the second does not -- it could be an action someone is considering but hasn't done yet. I'd suggest you have a look at our continuous aspect page to read a bit more about this. If you have any questions about it, please ask us there.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

1. As you say, words referring to groups can use plural verbs. So can they be used with ”to be” like the sentence below?
Manchester city are dead
2. Continuing the first question, can these words like this be used as plural nouns such as government turning to governments to refer to a group instead of mentioning an individual?
3. Sometimes, I see some trademarks such as Sneakers write like this on the pack: Expiration seen on pack. Meanwhile, packs of Sneaker being held by me. I think it can not be in general. And I also see them write like this:
You freaking donut, and they don't add the or a.
Hope you will explain this to me.
Plus, can I add conjunction after dots?
Thank you

Hello NoobsDeath

The answer to questions 1 and 2 is yes. As for question 3, in certain situations where this isn't much space, such as messages about expiration dates, text messages, or headlines in newspapers, people often break some grammatical rules to save space. If I understand the situation you are describing correctly, that is the case here.

I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the 'you freaking donut' slogan you're referring to, but it could be similar, where the verb is left out. Would that make sense? Could you please write an example of 'dots'? I'm not sure what you mean by that.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

As you said, sometimes people break grammatical rules to save space. But some days after, I thought some examples would not be like you said. Just like these:
The man who is king.
You stupid boy.
You murderer
I mean those examples break article rules without saving space. I mean at that situation it does not need to be like that. So could you explain carefully about that?
Plus, sometimes, words having -tion after can be adjective. So can you explain differences between deterioration and deteriorated?
Finally, is it ok to use some words such as ain’t or ‘cause in Ielts writing task?

Hello again NoobsDeath

When we address someone as in your latter two examples, we don't use an article -- 'you stupid boy', 'you beauty', etc., are all correct. The rules for articles don't apply here in the normal way due to the fact that we are addressing someone, i.e. speaking directly to a person.

A phrase such as 'the man who would be king' or 'the man who is king' are also somewhat unusual. To be honest, I'm not sure how to explain these at the moment -- I'll keep thinking about this -- but they are a bit different from most declarative sentences. 

'deteriorate' is the root of the noun 'deterioration' and the adjective 'deteriorated'. Could you explain in a bit more detail what your question about them is?

I wouldn't recommend using 'ain't' or ''cause' in an IELTS writing task. The writing tasks there should generally have at least a neutral register, and both of these words are quite informal.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team