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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

Comments

Hello,

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'.

 

Peter

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."
thx

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sirs,
If I want to use 'which' instead of 'when' in the sentence in Grammar Test 1: "The party's at the weekend, when more people can come", can I modify the sentence in these ways:
1) The party's at the weekend, at which more people can come.
2) The party's at the weekend, which allow more people to come (comment on the main clause instead of 'weekend')
Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

The second sentence is almost correct. You need to say allows rather than allow as it is present simple third person.

 

The first sentence is not correct. You need to add the word time:

The party's at the weekend, at which time more people can come.

However, this is a rather formal was to express it. The version with when is far more natural.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter

Hello there,

it is said that: when we use which without a preposition, we can't use where or when.
so I wonder why in the following sentences, they used :
I sometimes go and study in my local park, "where" I can get some fresh air.
there is no preposition here, why they used (where)? !
or
Winter, "when" temperatures are lower, sees higher rainfall.
here there is no preposition nither, whey do they use when?
in fact, the grammar point i.e. when we use which without a preposition, we can't use where or when. makes me so confused. I would very much appreciate it should you explain it a bit. Many thanks

Hello MaryPoury,

When you have a sentence with the relative pronoun which and a preposition (e.g. in which, on which, etc) it is often possible to use the relative adverbs when or where instead. If you use when or where then you do not need a preposition.

In your sentences you use the relative adverbs when and where and so no preposition is needed. If you use the relative pronoun which instead then you need to add a preposition:

I sometimes go and study in my local park, where I can get some fresh air. [relative adverb; no preposition needed]

 

I sometimes go and study in my local park, in which I can get some fresh air. [relative pronoun with a preposition]

 

Winter, when temperatures are lower, sees higher rainfall. [relative adverb; no preposition needed]

Winter, during which temperatures are lower, sees higher rainfall. [relative pronoun with a preposition]

 

When we use which with no preposition, we cannot replace it with when or where:

I stayed in a hotel in the centre, which was very expensive. [no preposition here, so we can't replace which with where]

 

I stayed in a hotel in the centre, in which there was a sauna and a nice gym. [we have a preposition so we can replace which with where]

I stayed in a hotel in the centre, where there was a sauna and a nice gym.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, dear teacher.
There aren't all the english grammars, and there is no grammars for advanced english grammars. We need more english grammar lessons because these grammars are not enough, so what should we do? But I appreciate the owner of this site because there we have enough chance to ask our questions. The owners of the site should have mentioned some sites for those, who want to pass TOEFL exam, as mentionded a link for IELTS learners.

Best regards!

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