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: 2.6 (8 votes)

Submitted by vsalmeron on Sat, 01/08/2020 - 20:14

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The grammar explanation said : "However, when we use which without a preposition, we can't use where or when". But in this exercise the correct answer is: Winter, where temperatures are lower, sees higher rainfall". In these sentences I do not see a preposition.

Hello vsalmeron,

I think you've misunderstood the explanation here.

We can use where or when to replace which when which is used with certain prepositions. However, when which is used without a preposition it cannot be replaced with where or when.

 

In your example where is used. You could use which with a preposition instead:

Winter, where temperatures are lower, sees higher rainfall.

Winter, during which temperatures are lower, sees higher rainfall.

Winter, in which temperatures are lower, sees higher rainfall.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Karan Narang on Tue, 28/07/2020 - 05:04

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I liked this lesson in which have got loads of new thing I can use to help my speaking skill. If could you tell me how had made this sentence ? The assistant that helped me was so kind. Why have used helped or was this sentence because of already has been used past verb.

Hello Karan Narang,

'helped' is a simple past verb that refers to a past finished action here. The person who said this could, for example, be referring to yesterday or last week.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 04:21

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It's really helpful.

Submitted by hanluna on Mon, 11/05/2020 - 19:17

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Hello, Could you explain for me? I'm getting confused why this sentence uses which instead of where Vinh Long, which I visited recently, has grown to a very rich city over the pattern years. Thank you.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 12/05/2020 - 08:01

In reply to by hanluna

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Hello hanluna,

The verb visit takes a direct object.

Which is a relative pronoun and can be an object.

Where is a relative adverb and cannot be an object.

 

If you use a different verb, then it is possible to use where. For example:

Vinh Long, where I live, has grown to a very rich city over the pattern years.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Serbiangirl on Sat, 02/05/2020 - 19:58

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Just wanted to say thank you so much for this very helpful lesson about non-defining relative clauses, it helped a lot, as well as test! Keep doing amazing job!

Submitted by Iago Liasch on Sat, 25/04/2020 - 03:25

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Hello, Could you help me please? Why is it wrong to say?: "Winter, whose temperatures are lower, sees higher rainfall."

Hello Iago Liasch,

I don't see anything wrong with that sentence grammatically. It may be more common to say when instead of whose, but whose is not wrong here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team