Relative clauses are added to main clauses to tell us more information.

Different types of clauses

The main clause is the main idea of the sentece. It makes sense on its own.

example: I like chicken.

Other clauses are then added around the main clause to make a more interesting sentence.

example: I like chicken because it is delicious and I eat it whenever I can.

Relative clauses add more information about the main clause or the noun in the main clause.

How to make a relative clause

1. relative pronoun + subject + verb
2. relative adverb + subject + verb
3. relative pronoun acting as subject + verb

relative pronouns: that, which, who

relative adverbs: when, why, where

Examples of main clause + relative clauses

Main clauses (without relative clause):

– Dave and Anna live in the old house.
– The car broke down last night
– I want to know

1. relative pronoun + subject + verb
Dave and Anna live in the old house that his grandma left him.
I don’t like the car which you gave me.
I want to know the person who gave you these shoes.

2. relative adverb + subject + verb
Dave and Anna live in the house where he grew up.
I don’t like it when the car breaks down.
I want to know where this man lives.

3. relative pronoun acting as subject + verb
Dave and Anna live in a house that frightens children.
I don’t want a car that breaks all the time.
I want to know the man that thinks giving my wife gifts is OK.

Relating to the whole clause vs. relating to the noun

If the relative clause relates to the whole main clause, put it after the main clause.

example: The man is an idiot who thinks he is smart.

If the relative clause only relates to the noun in the main clause, put it after the noun.

example: The man to whom we gave our dog is an idiot.

Formal Language

In formal language, ‘whom’ replaces ‘who’.

When using formal language, prepositions are put in front of relative clauses (in informal language, prepositions are usually put at the end of the clause).

examples

The man to whom he was speaking was most unpleasant.
(informal: The man (that) he was speaking to was most unpleasant)

The boat upon which we sailed was very nice.
(informal: The boat (that) we sailed on was very nice)

The man from whom we bought the house was quite old.
(informal: The man (that) we bought the house from was quite old)

Exercises

Add relative clauses to these main clauses:

1. She and I are best friends.
2. The bag is next to the sofa.
3. The TV show was interesting.
4. He cooked a delicious meal.
5. The city is dirty.