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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, 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!

Hello Ali Reza

We plan to create an Advanced grammar at some point, but I'm afraid it's going to be quite some time before we have it ready. In the meantime, the Grammar Reference has advanced points on many pages.

There are also other free resources on the internet, e.g. the Cambridge Dictionary, where you can find quite a lot of material.

Since the TOEFL isn't used by British institutions, we do not plan to create any resources for it. In addition to TakeIELTS, be sure to check out our FutureLearn courses.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello.
Is there any diffirence between meaning of these two Noun Clauses?
#1 I don't know if you are satisfied.
#2 I don't know wheter you are satisfied or not.

Hello Ali Reza

These two sentences have the same meaning.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Teachers,
Can non-defining relative clauses be reduced like defining clauses do (that is, 'be' + adjective phrase/prepositional phrase/participle can be reduced) ?
For example:
1) Her son, a dentist, lives in New York.
2) The Trumps. living in New York, arrived at my home yesterday
3) The building, going to be opened by the queen, cost over 5 million pounds
Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93

Non-defining relative clauses are not reduced like defining clauses are, so, for example, sentences 2 and 3 are not correct. 1 is correct, though it's not a case of a reduced non-defining clause -- instead it is an example of apposition.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kaisoo93

I'm afraid I don't understand that first sentence very well. Do you have another example? It'd be helpful to see it in context as well.

Yes, when 'which' refers to a whole clause rather than just a word (as in sentence 2), it is a non-defining relative clause. It is not correct to reduce sentence 2 in the way that you ask.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello Kaisoo93

Peter and I discussed this and what makes the most sense to us is to think of this as a kind of participle clause, specifically a participle clause giving the result of or reason for the main clause.

I'd still say that the 'meaning that' clause is not a reduced non-defining clause, because a reduced relative clause is formed by simply omitting the relative pronoun from the relative clause. For example:

The house which I bought is at the end of the road. (a defining relative clause)
→ The house I bought is at the end of the road. (a reduced defining relative clause)
The house, which I bought, is at the end of the road. (a non-defining relative clause)
The house, I bought, is at the end of the road. (not correct)

What we have in a sentence like the one you're asking about is a participle clause:

The house is at the end of the road, which makes it hard to get to. (= relative clause that comments on the main clause)
The house is at the end of the road, making it hard to get to. (= participle clause showing a result)

Note that a participle clause can't be used for just any reason -- they are used in the ways (reason, result, etc.) described on the page I linked to earlier.

I hope that helps you make more sense of this!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Dear teachers,
please tell me why in the second sentence, in the exercises, : "The building, which is going to be opened by the queen, cost over 5 million pounds" there is "cost" instead of "costs"?

Hello Evgeny N

The verb 'cost' is in the simple past tense in this case. 'cost' is an irregular verb; instead of saying 'costed' for the past or 'has costed', the correct forms are 'cost' and 'has cost'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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