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Instituto Tecnolgico de Sonora

rea de idiomas
Advanced English 1 August December 2016

HANDOUT RELATIVE CLAUSES

What is a Relative Clause?

A relative clause is a phrase that adds information to a sentence. All relative clauses describe a noun,
and they begin with one of these relative pronouns or relative adverbs.

Relative Pronouns

who (to describe people subject)


The woman who works in the bank is my neighbor.
whom (to describe people object)
My cousins, one of whom is a doctor, live in England.
whose (to describe possession)
The man whose car was stolen went to the police station.
that (to describe things defining relative clauses)
Im selling the computer that I bought in the U.S.
which (to describe things non-defining relative clauses)
Im selling this computer, which has a 250-GB hard drive, for $500.

Relative Adverbs

when (to describe times)


My favorite season is fall, when all the leaves change color.
where (to describe places)
I visited the neighborhood where I grew up
why (to give a reason)
Do you know the reason why the stores are closed today?
Relative Clauses = Better Sentences in English

Here is an example of some English sentences without relative clauses:

Yesterday I met a man. He works in the circus.

I bought a cell phone. It has internet access.

Theres the restaurant. I ate at that restaurant last night.

These sentences are correct, but they are very short and simple. You can use relative clauses to make
your sentences in English sound more fluent and natural:

Yesterday I met a man who works in the circus.

I bought a cell phone that has internet access.

Theres the restaurant where I ate last night.

Defining and Non-Defining Relative Clauses

Non-defining relative clauses add EXTRA information to the sentence.

Defining relative clauses add ESSENTIAL information to the sentence.

You can see if a relative clause is defining or non-defining by removing it from the sentence. If you
remove a non-defining relative clause, the sentence still has the same meaning. If you remove a defining
relative clause, the sentence has a different meaning or is incomplete.

Example of a sentence with a NON-DEFINING relative clause:

My brother, who lives in California, is an engineer.

If you remove who lives in California, the sentence still has the same meaning:

My brother is an engineer.

The relative clause who lives in California is extra information.

Example of a sentence with a DEFINING relative clause:

Thats the student who failed English class three times.

If you remove who failed English class three times, the sentence is incomplete:

Thats the student.

Therefore, the relative clause who failed English class three times is essential information, because it
defines which student, specifically, we are talking about.

In written English, use a comma before and after non-defining relative clauses.
Which or That?

Use which for non-defining relative clauses, and use a comma before it.

Use that for defining relative clauses, and dont use a comma before it.

The bananas that I bought on Monday are rotten.

The bananas, which I bought on Monday, are rotten.

In the first case, its possible that we have two types of bananas in the house:

Older bananas that I bought on Monday

Newer bananas that I bought on Wednesday

and that only the first bananas are rotten, but the second bananas are not rotten.

In the second case, all the bananas in the house were bought on Monday, and they are all rotten.

Again, to decide if a clause is defining or non-defining, try removing it from the sentence:

I read all the books that I borrowed from the library.


Without clause: I read all the books.
(sentence is incomplete WHAT books?)

The new Stephen King book, which I borrowed from the library, is very good.
Without clause: The new Stephen King book is very good.
(sentence is complete. The library part was only an extra detail)

Relative clause Exercise

1. We spent two days in Berlin, ________________ we took a walking tour of the city.

a) where b) which c) that

2. Edgar Allan Poe, ________ wrote the famous poem "The Raven," was born in Boston in 1809.

a) Who b) whose c) whom

3. He has climbed Mount McKinley, _______ is the highest mountain in the United States.

a) That b) where c) which

4. I met a woman ________ husband works for the government.

a) that b) whom c) whose

5. I bought the toy _______ my son wanted for Christmas.

a) that b) when c) who


6. I talked to my manager last Monday, _______ she got back from her business trip.

a) where b) when c) whose

7. The employee ______ won the award has been promoted

a) which b) when c) who

8. This is the book _______ helped me understand English grammar.

a) that b) where c) why

9. I've begun a career as a freelance writer, _______ allows me to work from home

a) where b) which c) who

10. I'm looking for a store _______ I can buy organic vegetables

a) That b) where c) why

I. Rewrite the sentences using relative clauses.

A holiday in Scotland

1. We spent our holiday in Scotland last year. Scotland is in the north of Great Britain.

Last year we___________________________________________________________________

2. People live in Scotland. They are called Scots.

The people ____________________________________________________________________

3. We first went to Edinburgh. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland.

We first_______________________________________________________________________

4. Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh. He wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Arthur Conan Doyle______________________________________________________________

5. Then we visited a lake. It is in the Highlands.

The lake_______________________________________________________________________

6. Loch Ness is 37 km long. People know it for its friendly monster.

Loch Ness ______________________________________________________________________

7. There we met an old man. He told us that he had seen Nessie.

An old man_____________________________________________________________________

8. We then travelled to a mountain. The mountain is near the town of Fort William.
We then________________________________________________________________________

9. The mountain is the highest mountain in Great Britain. It is called Ben Nevis.

The mountain___________________________________________________________________

10. I sent you a postcard. It was written on the summit of Ben Nevis.

The Postcard ____________________________________________________________________

III. Join the following sentences with relative pronouns or adverbs.

1. The tourists were robbed. They are taking to the police station.
_______________________________________________________________________
2. This is the shop. You can buy cheap clothes there.
________________________________________________________________________
3. Where is the milk? It was in the fridge.
________________________________________________________________________
4. Owens dog is a terrier. It is very friendly.
________________________________________________________________________
5. I met a woman. Her son knows you.
________________________________________________________________________