ENG2: Relative Clauses

This unit is about Relative pronouns and there usage in English grammar.

Relative clauses add extra information to a sentence by defining a noun. They are usually divided into two types – defining relative clauses and non-defining relative clauses.

Image result for relative pronounsRelative clauses are clauses starting with the relative pronouns who*, that, which, whose, where, when. They are most often used to define or identify the noun that precedes them. Here are some examples:

Look at this sentence:

  • The woman who lives next door works in a bank.

who lives next door’ is a defining relative clause. It tells us which woman we are talking about.

Look at some more examples:

  • Look out! There’s the dog that bit my brother.
  • The film that we saw last week was awful.
  • This is the skirt I bought in the sales.

Relative pronouns are associated as follows with their preceding noun:

Preceding noun Relative pronoun Examples
a person who(m)/that, whose – Do you know the girl who ..
– He was a man that ..
– An orphan is a child whose parents ..
a thing which†/that, whose – Do you have a computer which ..
– The oak a tree that ..
– This is a book whose author ..

Can you identify the defining relative clauses? They tell us which dog, which film and which skirt we are talking about.

Relative pronouns

Relative clauses are usually introduced by a relative pronoun (usually whowhichthat, but whenwhere and whose are also possible)

Defining Clauses

defining or identifying clause tells us which specific person or thing we are talking about in a larger group of people or things. If a defining relative clause is removed, the meaning of the sentence changes significantly. A defining relative clause is not separated from the rest of the sentence by commas or parentheses.

EXAMPLES
  • The woman who visited me in the hospital was very kind.
  • The umbrella that I bought last week is already broken.
  • The man who stole my backpack has been arrested.
  • The weather that we had this summer was beautiful.

With defining relative clauses we can use who or that to talk about people. There is no difference in meaning between these, though ‘who’ tends to be preferred in more formal use.

  • She’s the woman who cuts my hair.
  • She’s the woman that cuts my hair.

We can use that or which to talk about things. Again, there is no difference in meaning between these, though ‘which’ tends to be preferred in more formal use.

  • This is the dog that bit my brother.
  • This is the dog which bit my brother.

Simplifying defining relative clauses

Defining relative clauses can be simplified, or reduced, in several ways:

  1. If the relative pronoun is the object of the verb then it can be omitted:
  • This is the skirt that I bought in the sales.
  • This is the skirt which I bought in the sales.
  • This is the skirt I bought in the sales.

In this sentence ‘skirt’ is the object of the verb (buy). ‘I’ is the subject. When the relative pronoun is the object, it can be omitted.

Note that if the relative pronoun is the subject of the verb then it cannot be omitted:

  • This is the dog that bit my brother.
  • This is the dog which bit my brother.

BUT NOT

  • This is the dog bit my brother.
  1. If the relative clause contains the verb ‘be’ + any of the following then it can be reduced:

(a) be + an adjective phrase

  • The man who is interested in your car will telephone later.
  • The man interested in your car will telephone later.

Note that other verbs are possible here as well as ‘be’, such as ‘seem’, ‘look’ and ‘appear’.

Image result for relative pronouns

(b) be + a prepositional phrase

  • The books which are on the table have been read.
  • The books on the table have been read.

(c) be + a past participle [a passive form]

  • A person who has been tricked once is careful the next time.
  • A person tricked once is careful the next time.

(d) be + a present participle [a continuous form]

  • The family who are living in the house are very rich.
  • The family living in the house are very rich.

Non-Defining Pronouns

non-defining or non-essential clause gives us more information about the person or thing we are talking about. If a non-defining relative clause is removed from a sentence, we lose some detail, but the overall meaning of the sentence remains the same. Non-defining relative clauses are always set off from the rest of the sentence with commas or parentheses.

EXAMPLES
  • The farmer, whose name was Fred, sold us 10 pounds of potatoes.
  • Elephants, which are the largest land mammals, live in herds of 10 or more adults.
  • The author, who graduated from the same university I did, gave a wonderful presentation.
  • My mother, who is 86, lives in Paris.

There are two common occasions, particularly in spoken English, when the relative pronoun is omitted:

1. When the pronoun is the object of the relative clause. In the following sentences the pronoun that can be left out is enclosed in (brackets):

  • Do you know the girl (who/m) he’s talking to?
  • Where’s the pencil (which) I gave you yesterday?
  • I haven’t read any of the books (that) I got for Christmas.
  • I didn’t like that girl (that) you brought to the party.
  • Did you find the money (which) you lost?

Image result for relative pronouns

Note: You cannot omit the relative pronoun a.) if it starts a non-defining relative clause, or, b.) if it is the subject of a defining relative clause. For example, who is necessary in the following sentence: What’s the name of the girl who won the tennis tournament?

2. When the relative clause contains a present or past participle and the auxiliary verb to be. In such cases both relative pronoun and auxiliary can be left out:

  • Who’s that man (who is) standing by the gate?
  • The family (that is) living in the next house comes from Slovenia.
  • She was wearing a dress (which was) covered in blue flowers.
  • Most of the parents (who were) invited to the conference did not come.
  • Anyone (that is) caught writing on the walls will be expelled from school.

ASSIGNMENT : ENG: Relative Pronouns Assignment MARKS : 10  DURATION : 1 week, 3 days

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