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 (48 votes)
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Submitted by Florist93 on Tue, 13/06/2023 - 03:47


Hello Sir/Madam,

We plan to go on Wednesday, subject to your approval. Is "subject to your approval" a non-definitive relative clause? If so, where is the relative pronoun? Look forward to receiving your reply soon. Thanks.

Hello Florist93,

I wouldn't call 'subject to your approval' a non-defining relative clause, but you are right in thinking that some words have been omitted.

'subject to' + noun typically functions like an adjective (e.g. 'Our outing is subject to your approval'; 'Prices are subject to change', etc.). It can also be used as in the sentence you've asked about, where it's placed at the end to indicate that the previous idea is dependent on a condition.

I would call this an instance of ellipsis. The full sentence could be understood to be something like 'We plan to go on Wednesday, [though we recognise that this is] subject to your approval.'

Does that help you make sense of it?

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by hanieh1315 on Sun, 04/06/2023 - 08:59


Hi there👋🏻please can you answer my question
How can we reduced this sentence?
• So far nobody has claimed the money which we discussed under the floorboards

Hi hanieh1315,

That's not possible in this sentence, because all its verbs (has claimed, discussed) are active, not passive.

A reduced passive is only possible when the relative clause verb is in the passive, e.g.

  • He wrote a book, which was published in 2020, about his own life.
  • He wrote a book, published in 2020, about his own life.

You could say something like this with a reduced passive.

  • So far nobody has claimed the money which was hidden under the floorboards.
  • So far nobody has claimed the money hidden under the floorboards.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by User_1 on Wed, 31/05/2023 - 13:11


I have not found the right session for this question, so I am writing here...
My doubts regard the type of dependent clauses.
I know there are three categories:
Noun clause, Adverb clause and Adjective clause.
Please, could you explain the difference?
Above all, an adjective clause, can it also be a relative clause at the same time?
For instance:
Constantine, whose birthday is tomorrow, is going to be late.
Isn't it both an adjective clause and also a non-defining relative clause?
Thanks for your help

Hi User_1,

Here's a brief explanation.

  • A noun clause functions as a noun. It can be the subject, object or complement in a sentence. e.g. I expected (that) I would pass the test.
  • An adjective clause functions as an adjective and describes a noun. It starts with a wh- word (e.g. when, where, who, why, which, that, how). e.g. That's the man who I talked to yesterday.
  • An adverbial clause functions as an adverb and describes a verb, adjective, adverb, phrase or clause. It starts with because, so that, as, although, while or some other conjunction. e.g. I sent her a message after I arrived.

Yes, right - relative clauses (defining and non-defining) are also adjective clauses. These are just different names for the same thing, based on different grammatical traditions.

I hope that helps.


LearnEnglish team

Thanks Jonathan for your explanation.
I was confused especially because I did not figure out the difference between relative clauses (defining and non-defining) and adjective clauses.
Thanks a lot!

Submitted by amirmohammad.6900 on Wed, 10/05/2023 - 08:02


Hi. Could you please help me with the following?

The old woman walked slowly to the elevator,assisted by the porter.

Can we say it is a reduced relative clause?

I mean; which was assisted by the porter.

Is that grammatically true?