Relative clauses: non-defining relative clauses

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: 4.1 (78 votes)

Submitted by Hosseinpour on Thu, 24/11/2022 - 17:55


Dear team,
He took his brother with him/himself. Which one is true (him or himself?)
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

The correct form here is 'him'. The object of the verb (his brother) is not the same as the subject here (him), so the reflexive is not needed.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hosseinpour on Sat, 08/10/2022 - 08:58


Dear team,
I remembered to switch off the lights before I (leave/left) the house.
Which one is the right answer (leave or left)
Thank you

Submitted by annanowak on Wed, 21/09/2022 - 17:11


Hello, I have no idea how to use non-defining clause in this example. Could you give me hand?
That was the final match of the season. It was our
best season ever.

Hello annanowak,

You could join these two sentences like this: 'That was the final match of the season, which was our best season ever'. Another possibility, though without a relative clause: 'That was the final match of our best season ever'.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SarahAC on Mon, 15/08/2022 - 09:05


In the following relative clauses, can you help me to understand why the relative pronoun is 'which' and not 'where', as they are all referring to a place.
1. The castle which we visited yesterday was very nice.
2. Dublin, which is the capital of Ireland, is very expensive.
3. Asia is the continent which has the largest population.
4. The place which I love the most.


Hello SarahAC,

'Which' is a relative pronoun like 'who' and 'that'. However, 'where' is a relative adverb like 'when' and 'why'.

  • Sentence 1 - the verb in the relative clause is 'visit' and we visit a place, not a direction. You could say 'the place where we went' but if you use 'visit' you need an object, which means a noun or, in a relative clause, a relative pronoun.
  • Sentence 2 - again, 'is' needs a complement, which here is a noun not an adverb.
  • Sentence 3 - here, 'which' is used as it is the subject in the relative clause; you cannot use an adverb as a subject
  • Sentence 4 - As with the first two examples, 'love' requires an object; this needs to be a pronoun.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DR HIRA KHALID on Sun, 31/07/2022 - 13:28



I always struggle with using commas with relative clauses and making complex sentences.I am writing 2 examples from the online study material

I am writing to refer Mrs.Clark, whose features are consistent with type 2 diabetes, to your care for further assessment and management of her uncontrolled blood sugar.

I am writing to refer Amina who is presenting with signs and symptoms of meningococcal meningitis for urgent assessment and management.

Please if someone can guide is the second statement is correct? If yes then what is the grammatic reason for not using commas in this statement?