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How to use a relative clause1

How To Use A Relative Clause
Use relative clauses to provide extra information. This information can
either define something (defining clause), or provide unnecessary, but
interesting, added information (non-defining clause).
Relative clauses can be introduced by:




a relative pronoun: who (whom), which, that, whose
no relative pronoun, Ø.
where, why and when instead of a relative pronoun

You need to consider the following when deciding which relative
pronoun to use:




Is the subject or object or possessive of a relative clause?
Does it refers to a person or an object?

Is the relative clause a defining or non-defining relative clause?

How To Use a Defining or Non-Defining Relative Clause
Defining Relative Clauses
The information provided in a defining relative clause is crucial in
understanding the meaning of the sentence.
Example: The woman who lives in apartment No. 34 has been
arrested.
The document that I need has 'important' written at the top.
The purpose of a defining relative clause is to clearly define who or
what we are talking about. Without this information, it would be
difficult to know who or what is meant.
Example: The house is being renovated.
In this case it is not necessarily clear which house is being renovated.
Non-defining Relative Clauses
Non-defining relative clauses provide interesting additional information
which is not essential to understanding the meaning of the sentence.


Example: Mrs. Jackson, who is very intelligent, lives on the corner.
Correct punctuation is essential in non-defining relative clauses. If the
non-defining relative clause occurs in the middle of a sentence, a
comma is put before the relative pronoun and at the end of the clause.
If the non-defining relative clause occurs at the end of a sentence, a
comma is put before the relative pronoun.
How To Use A Relative Clause - The Use of Relative Pronouns in
Defining Clauses
Relative Pronouns in Defining Relative Clauses
Person

Object

Subject

who, that

which, that

Object


Ø, that, who, whom

Ø, which, that

Possessive

whose

whose, of which

Relative Pronouns Used As The Subject of Defining Relative
Clauses
Example: Children who (that) play with fire are in great danger of
harm.
The man who bought all the books by Hemingway has died.
Generally, who and which are more usual in written English whereas
that is more usual in speech when referring to things.
Relative Pronouns Used As The Object of Defining Relative
Clauses
Example: That's the boy (Ø , that, who, whom) I invited to the party.
There's the house (Ø, that, which) I'd like to buy.
Relative Pronouns Used As A Possessive In A Defining Relative Clauses
Example: He's the man whose car was stolen last week.
They were sure to visit the town whose location (OR the location of
which) was little known.


NOTE: It is preferable to use that (not which) after the following
words: all, any(thing), every (thing), few, little, many, much, no(thing),
none, some(thing), and after superlatives. When using the pronoun to
refer to the object, that can be omitted.
Example: It was everything (that) he had ever wanted.
There were only a few (that) really interested him.
How To Use A Relative Clause - The Use of Relative Pronouns in
Non-Defining Relative Clauses
Relative Pronouns in Non-Defining Relative Clauses
Person
Object
Subject
who
which
Object
who, whom
which
Possessive
whose
whose, of which
Relative Pronouns Used As The Subject of Non-Defining
Relative Clauses
Example: Frank Zappa, who was one of the most creative artists in
rock 'n roll, came from California.
Olympia, whose name is taken from the Greek, is the capitol of
Washington State.
Relative Pronouns Used As The Object of Non-Defining Relative
Clauses
Example: Frank invited Janet, who (whom) he had met in Japan, to the
party.
Peter brought his favorite antique book, which he had found at a flee
market, to show his friends.
NOTE: 'That' can never be used in non-defining clauses.
Relative Pronouns Used As A Possessive In Non-Defining
Relative Clauses
Example: The singer, whose most recent recording has had much
success, signing autographs.
The artist, whose name he could not remember, was one of the best he
had ever seen.


NOTES
In non-defining relative clauses, which can be used to refer to an
entire clause.
Example: He came for the weekend wearing only some shorts and a tshirt, which was a stupid thing to do.
After numbers and words like many, most, neither, and some, we
use of before whom and which in non-defining relative clauses.
Example: Many of those people, most of whom enjoyed their
experience, spent at least a year abroad. Dozens of people had been
invited, most of whom I knew.

The Use Of Where, Why And When - Relative Clauses and
Preposition Use
Where, referring to a place, why, referring to a reason, and when,
referring to a time, can be used instead of a relative pronoun after a
noun.
In defining relative clauses why and when, unlike where can be
omitted.
Example: I'd like to know the reason (why) he decided not to come.
February is the month (when) many of my colleagues take skiing
holidays.
BUT! She always had wanted to go to a place where she could speak
her native tongue.
When, where and why are not omitted in non-defining relative
clauses.
Example: I come from the Seattle area, where many successful
companies such as Microsoft and Boeing are located, and I often go
home during the summer.
He likes shopping between one and three, when most people are at
home, because of the relative calm.
NOTES:


When speaking, we often omit the relative pronoun.
Whom is formal and most often used when writing.
Relative clauses and prepositions
In formal English prepositions can come before the relative pronoun.
However, it much more common to place prepositions at the end of the
relative clause, especially in informal spoken English.
Example: John Robbins, whom I spoke to by telephone, instructed me
to buy 200 shares of WAKO. Formal
The Ritz, which was stayed at in New York, was extremely expensive.
Defining Relative Clauses
Formal Informal
Person whom
Ø
Object which
Ø
Example: The banker to whom I gave my check was quite friendly. formal
The woman I talked to was very pleasant indeed. - informal
The book which I received for my birthday was excellent. - formal
The car he drove was really fast. - informal
Non-Defining Relative Clauses
Formal Informal
Person whom
who
Object which which
Example: The bank manager, to whom he addressed his complaints,
was very unhelpful. - formal.
The local branch manager, who I talked to about my problems, was
very helpful. - informal



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