What are relative clauses?
A relative clause is a subordinate clause that modifies a noun or a noun phrase.
The man who is smoking is the murderer
The noun the man is modified by the relative clause who is smoking.
We use relative clauses to give additional information about something without starting another sentence. By combining sentences with a relative clause, your text becomes more fluent and you can avoid repeating certain words.
How to Form Relative Clauses
Imagine, a girl is talking to Tom. You want to know who she is and ask a friend whether he knows her. You could say:
A girl is talking to Tom. Do you know the girl?
That sounds rather complicated, doesn't it? It would be easier with a relative clause: you put both pieces of information into one sentence. Start with the most important thing – you want to know who the girl is.
Do you know the girl …
As your friend cannot know which girl you are talking about, you need to put in the additional information – the girl is talking to Tom. Use „the girl“ only in the first part of the sentence, in the second part replace it with the relative pronoun (for people, use the relative pronoun „who“). So the final sentence is:
Do you know the girl who is talking to Tom?
Relative clauses can be introduced by:
1. A relative pronoun: who, whom, which, that, whose.
Example: "The man who is standing there is a famous writer."
2. A relative adverb: where, why and when.
Example: " The restaurant where I have dinner is nice."
3. None of them.
Example: "The man I met is extremely wealthy"
who - subject or object pronoun for people
They caught the lady who killed her baby.
which - subject or object pronoun
I read the book which is on the table.
I visited the town which you told me about.
which - referring to a whole sentence
They were unsuccessful which is disappointing.
whom - used for object pronoun for people, especially in non-restrictive relative clauses (in restrictive relative clauses use who)
The boy whom you told me about got the best grades in mathematics.
that - subject or object pronoun for people, animals and things in restrictive relative clauses (who or which are also possible)
I like the vase that is over there.
where - referring to a place
The restaurant where I usually have dinner is nice.
when - referring to a time
There are times when I feel so lonely.
why - referring to a reason
This is why she refused the offer.
Subject Pronoun or Object Pronoun?
You can distinguish subject and object pronouns as follows:
· If the relative pronoun is not followed by a noun or pronoun, it is a subject pronoun. Subject relative pronouns can never be omitted (dropped.)
The apple which is lying on the table is sweet.
The teacher who lives next door is nice.
· If the relative pronoun is followed by a noun or pronoun, the relative pronoun is an object pronoun. Object relative pronouns can be omitted (dropped) in restrictive (defining) relative clauses.
The film (which) we watched yesterday was fantastic.
The writer (who/whom) we met last weekend is very famous.
Restrictive Relative Clauses
1. Restrictive (identifying or defining) relative clauses give detailed necessary information. They are not put between commas.
I know the man who is standing there
2. These clauses are often used in definitions.
A novelist is someone who writes novels.
3. Object pronouns in these clauses can be omitted (dropped.)
The boy (who/whom) we met yesterday is from New York.
Non-Restrictive Relative Clauses
Non- restrictive (non-identifying or non- defining) relative clauses give interesting additional information which is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence. These clauses are put between commas.
Martin Luther king, who was known for his fight for the civil rights, was assassinated in 1968.
In non restrictive relative clauses:
1. who/which may not be replaced with that.
Jim, who we met yesterday, is very nice.
2. Object relative pronouns cannot be dropped.
Jim, who we met yesterday, is very nice.
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