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

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Average: 1 (1 vote)

Hi DR HIRA KHALID,

No, the second sentence needs commas as well. It's the same case as the first sentence. 

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by katt_79 on Thu, 12/05/2022 - 15:00

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Dear The LearningEnglish Team,
I wonder whether it is grammatically true if I reduce the following non-defining relative clause?
"The Great Walll of China, which was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, is considered one of the greatest man-made wonders of the world." --> "The Great Wall of China, listed as a World Heritage Site ... wonders of the world."
Hope to get your help soon!
Many thanks!

Hello katt_79,

Yes, that is grammatically correct. When the relative pronoun (and sometimes other words) are omitted, this structure is called a reduced relative clause.

Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Miss Paola on Fri, 01/04/2022 - 00:02

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Dear sirs,
I have hit a wall when trying to find the reason why in some sentences we can't use where/when even though we are reffering to a place or time, like in the examples:
They went to a concert at the new arena, which was built last year.
My birthday, which was my 40th, turned out to be a wonderful day!
February, which is my favourite month, lasts 29 days this year.
The new school, which has a pool, opens next week.
Yesterday, which was a holiday, we visited my sister-in-law.
and
Centre Park, which we love, is always really busy on Saturdays.

I can see "there/then" can't be used in these cases, but I can't explain it. Could you help me please?

Hi Miss Paola,

It's because we use where and when to introduce something that happens in/at that place or time. We don't use them if we just want to add description about those places/times - in that case, we just use which.

These sentences just add extra description about the place or time:

  • They went to a concert at the new arena, which was built last year.
  • February, which is my favourite month, lasts 29 days this year.

These sentences introduce something that happens in that place or time:

  • They went to the new arena, where they saw a concert.
  • February, when we celebrate my mother's birthday, lasts 29 days this year.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mohsen11 on Fri, 03/12/2021 - 00:30

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May I ask why "fisherman's" is written like that in the example given in the text?

Hello mohsen11,

You're right -- that should be 'fishermen's', not 'fisherman's'. I've fixed the error.

Thanks very much for pointing this out to us and sorry for any confusion!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by haovivu128 on Wed, 22/09/2021 - 15:17

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Hello sirs, please correct them for me, thank you in advance. Non – defining relative clauses: 1. who (subject): Michelle Obama, who was the most admired woman in the eyes of Americans, was a first lady from 2009 to 2017. 2. who/whom (object): They’re Hollywood stars, who/ whom the Press would like most to interview. 3. which (subject): Nha Trang Vinpearl Land, which measures 200,000 square meters in total area, is one of the most entertaining places in Vietnam. 4. which (object): My friend’s bought a new Toyota car, which I’ve most liked for a long time. 5. whose (people): Those are Mr. and Mrs. Smith, whose daughter was my ex – girlfriend. 6. whose (things): India, whose population is 2nd in the world, is a country in South Asia. 7. where (places): FuJi, where many people used to climb on the top of, is one of famous mountains in Japan. 8. when (times): 20th December 2000 was our wedding date, when my wife’s father died because of car crash accident.

Hello haovivu128,

We can generally help you with a specific question about a specific part of one sentence, but I'm afraid we're not able to offer the service of correcting our users' writing.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team