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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

Dear Kirk,
Thank you for the help and time.

Respected dear team,
The Orkney islands are situated in the path of the warm Gulf stream(which) continuously washes nutrients ashore and keeps the winters relatively mild.
1. What is the reason that we have to use (which) in here, is it because of the verb(washes)?
2. In the same sentences when can use (where) instead of (which)? I mean what changes?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

A relative pronoun is always required when its relative clause gives extra information. That is why 'which', which refers to 'the warm Gulf stream', is required here.

I'm afraid that 'where' doesn't work here because the antecedent 'the warm Gulf stream' is a natural force, not a place. If you changed the sentence a bit so that the relative clause referred to the 'the path of the warm Gulf stream' (which is a place), then 'where' could work: 'The Orkney Islands are situated in the path of the warm Gulf stream, where nutrients are abundant and the winter is milder.'

Hope that helps you make sense of it.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I have a question. It is about "whom". May I omit this relative pronoun of it is followed by a subject?
Thanks for the lesson

Hello GiulianaAndy,

In general, yes. This is explained on our defining relative clauses page, in the last section.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello The LearnEnglish Team,
I would like to get an answer to my question.
So in this case below non-defining relative clause is used:
Global warming has ended without agreement. It was held in The Hague=>
The global warming conference, wich was held in The Hague, has ended without agreement. (Non-defining)
BUT i think we can use defining relative clause here too, so On what does it depend choosing non-defining or defining relative clause when we speak or write?

Hell BobMux,

We use defining relative clauses when we want to indicate which thing we are talking about.

 

In your example there is only one global warming conference, so there is no need to indicate which one the speaker means. However, imagine a situation in which there are two global warming conferences, one in The Hague and one is another city.

In this case you would need to indicate which of the two conferences you are talking about, so a defining relative clause would be appropriate:

The global warming conference which was held in The Hague has ended...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In this sentence the relative clause gives information about the person, doesn't it??
Jack, who's retired now, spends a lot of time with his grandchildren.

Hello Yacine babacine,

Yes, that's correct. The relative clause describes 'Jack' in this sentence. The relative clause almost always directly follows the word or phrase which it describes.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear team,
I'm slightly confused about this.
e.g, City Park, which we used to go to, has been closed down.
e.g, City Park, where we used to go, has been closed down.
From the examples, it show that "where" is used in the sentences without preposition. But, the explanation said that I can't use "where" or "when" without preposition.
However, when we use which without a preposition, we can't use where or when.
e.g, Centre Park, which we love, is always really busy on Saturdays.
e.g, February, which is my favourite month, lasts 29 days this year.
Thanks a lot

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