Relative clausesDefining and non-defining clauses
In the schoolyard I saw Natalie the other day.Natalie?The girl whoplays thepiano?
In the schoolyard No, that’s Natasha. Natalie is the girl who dropped out of college.
In the schoolyard She’s working in Davidson’s now. You know, the shop that sells expensive clothes.
Let’s look at the lines more closely• Emma: I saw Natalie the other day.• Melanie: Natalie? The girl who plays the piano?• Emma: No, that’s Natasha. Natalie is the student who dropped out of college. She’s working in Davidson’s now. You know, the shop that sells expensive clothes. Clauses printed in red are called relative clauses. They give us more information about the subject or the object of the previous sentence/clause.
Explanation• The relative clauses in this conversation identify which person/thing they are talking about. The clause who plays the piano tells us which girl Melanie means. The clause that sells very expensive clothes tells us which shop Emma means.• Relative clauses are usually introduced by pronouns: who, which and that.
WH0• The relative pronoun who refers to people. e.g. The woman who lived here before us is a romantic novelist.• It is also possible to use that when we talk about people especially in informal language. e.g. This is the girl that has eaten all the biscuits.
THAT/WHICH• The relative pronouns that & which refer to things. That is more usual than which, especially in conversation. e.g. The car that won the race looked very futuristic.• Which is more formal. e.g. All cells contain DNA which holds genetic information.
WHOSE• WHOSE - refers to things belonging to people. e.g. That was the man whose car was stolen.
Subject/object• Relative pronouns can be either the subject or the object of the relative clause. Examples: Marco Polo was a merchant who visited China in the 13th century. (subject) Glaciers are rivers of ice which form in cold climates on mountains. (subject) Einstein is a scientist who I admire. (object) This is the poem that I wrote in my first year. (object)
Leaving out the relative pronoun• We can leave out the relative pronoun when it is the object of the relative clause. e.g. Einstein is a scientist I admire. This is the poem I wrote in my first year.
Defining or non-defining relative clauses• As mentioned above, relative clauses give important information about the subject or object. These are called defining clauses.• In written language, we sometimes use non- defining clauses which give extra information, which we could leave out, and are separated by commas. That is not used. e.g. John Lennon, who was born in 1940, was a member of the Beatles.
Relative adverbs• We can also use some relative adverbs at the beginning of a relative clause:• WHERE – refers to a place e.g. We went to a camp where we stayed two years ago.• WHEN - refers to a time e.g. I’ll never forget the day when I met you.