AB51.org

Relative Clauses

1. Review: different types of clauses

Sentences are made up of parts called clauses.

There are two main types of clauses:

  • The main clause (independent clause) – can be a sentence by itself
  • Surrounding clauses (dependent clause) – cannot be a sentence by itself, and must connect to an independent clause

Therefore a sentence centres around a main clause, then adds further main clauses and independent clauses. It can have multiple additional clauses.

Independent clause
(can be a sentence by itself)
Dependent clause
(must connect to independent clause)
Example sentence
I like chickenbecause it is deliciousI like chicken because it is delicious.
Sienna plays badmintonalthough she is not very good at itSienna plays badminton although she is not very good at it.
Terry builds cars1. and makes model railways
2. because he likes technical projects
Terry builds cars and makes model railways
because he likes technical projects.

2. Relative clauses

Relative clauses are added to a main clause to give more information about the main clause or the noun in the main clause.

They can be made by:

  • relative pronoun + subject + verb
  • relative pronoun acting as subject + verb
  • relative adverb + subject + verb

3. Relative pronoun + subject + verb

Relative clauses can be made with the structure:

  • independent clause + relative pronoun (+ subject) + verb

*Relative pronouns: what, which, who

Independent clauseRelative pronounSubjectVerbFull sentence
Dave and Anna live in the old housethat
his grandmaleftDave and Anna live in the old house that his grandma left him.
The car broke down last nightwhichyougaveI don’t like the car which you gave me.
I want to know the personwhogaveI want to know the person who gave you these shoes.

4. Relative pronoun acting as subject + verb

Relative clauses can be made with the structure:

  • independent clause + relative pronoun acting as subject + verb

This means a new subject is not needed because the relative pronoun refers to the subject in the independent clause.

Independent clauseRelative pronoun acting as subjectVerbExample sentence
Dave and Anna live in an old housethatfrightensDave and Anna live in an old house that frightens children.
I don’t want a carthatbreaksI don’t want a car that breaks all the time.
I want to know the manwhothinksI want to know the man who thinks giving gifts to my wife is OK.

5. Relative adverb + subject + verb

Relative clauses can be made with the structure:

  • independent clause + relative adverb + subject + verb

Relative adverbs: when, why, where

Independent clauseRelative adverbSubjectVerbExample sentence
Dave and Anna live in the old housewherehegrew upDave and Anna live in the old house where he grew up.
I don’t like itwhenthe carbreaks downI don’t like it when the car breaks down.
I want to knowwherethis manlivesI want to know where this man lives.

6. Relative clause positions

The position of the relative clause depends on about what the relative clause is talking:

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

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

Relates to whole clauseRelates only to noun
The man is an idiot who thinks he is smart.The man to whom we gave our dog is an idiot.
The house is damaged where the roof is leaking.The house that we bought with our lottery money is damaged.

7. Formal Language

  1. In formal language, ‘whom’ replaces ‘who’.
  2. Prepositions, in phrases like ‘upon which’ and ‘to whom’, are put in front of relative clauses to make them formal. Informal language often puts these at the end
InformalFormal
The man who he was speaking to was most unpleasant.The man to whom he was speaking was most unpleasant.
The boat that we sailed on was very nice.The boat upon which we sailed was very nice.
The man that we bought the house from was quite old.The man from whom we bought the house was quite old.

8. Exercises

1. Identify the main clauses and relative clauses in these sentences:
(i) The dog chased the bird that flew into the garden.
(ii) Georgie burnt the car that she stole so the police could not search it.
(iii) Herman threw away the gift that his company gave him because he wanted to forget working there.

2. Add relative clauses to these main clauses:
(i) She and I are best friends.
(ii) The bag is next to the sofa.
(iii) The TV show was interesting.
(iv) He cooked a delicious meal.
(v) The city is dirty.

Translate »