Relative clauses – non-defining relative clauses

Do you know how to give extra information about someone or something using relative clauses? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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 fishermen'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

Average: 4 (24 votes)

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. 

All the best
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ali Reza on Sun, 23/02/2020 - 07:59

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.
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sun, 23/02/2020 - 14:10

In reply to by Ali Reza


Hello Ali Reza

These two sentences have the same meaning.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Sat, 15/02/2020 - 07:40

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


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Evgeny N on Thu, 06/02/2020 - 10:03

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


The LearnEnglish Team

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