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The Relative Clause

Recognize a relative clause when you see one. A relative clausealso called an adjective or adjectival clausewill meet three requirements.

First, it will contain a subject and verb. Next, it will begin with a relative pronoun [who, whom, whose, that, or which] or a relative adverb [when, where, or why]. Finally, it will function as an adjective, answering the questions What kind? How many? or Which one?

The relative clause will follow one of these two patterns: relative pronoun or adverb + subject + verb

relative pronoun as subject + verb

Here are some examples: Which Francine did not accept Which = relative pronoun; Francine = subject; did accept = verb [not, an adverb, is not officially part of the verb]. Where George found Amazing Spider-Man #96 in fair condition Where = relative adverb; George = subject; found = verb. That dangled from the one clean bathroom towel That = relative pronoun functioning as subject; dangled = verb. Who continued to play video games until his eyes were blurry with fatigue Who = relative pronoun functioning as subject; played = verb. Avoid creating a sentence fragment. A relative clause does not express a complete thought, so it cannot stand alone as a sentence. To avoid writing a fragment, you must connect each relative clause to a main clause. Read the examples below. Notice that the relative clause follows the word that it describes. To calm his angry girlfriend, Joey offered an apology which Francine did not accept.

We tried our luck at the same flea market where George found Amazing Spider-Man #96 in fair condition. Michelle screamed when she saw the spider that dangled from the one clean bathroom towel. Brian said goodnight to his roommate Justin, who continued to play video games until his eyes were blurry with fatigue. Punctuate a relative clause correctly. Punctuating relative clauses can be tricky. For each sentence, you will have to decide if the relative clause is essential or nonessential and then use commas accordingly. Essential clauses do not require commas. A relative clause is essential when you need the information it provides. Look at this example: The children who skateboard in the street are especially noisy in the early evening. Children is nonspecific. To know which ones we are talking about, we must have the information in the relative clause. Thus, the relative clause is essential and requires no commas. If, however, we eliminate children and choose more specific nouns instead, the relative clause becomes nonessential and does require commas to separate it from the rest of the sentence. Read this revision: Matthew and his sister Loretta, who skateboard in the street, are especially noisy in the early evening.
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1. The relative pronoun as subject 1.1. When the relative pronoun is subject of a clause and refers to a human, the relative pronoun who is generally used. Examples: The man who lives next door is 99. I know someone who eats red hot chilli peppers. Sometimes, who is replaced by that, especially in American English and in spoken language: The boy that lost his watch was careless. However, The boy who lost his watch was careless. is also quite possible.

After the antecedent those, who is almost always required: Those who can swim should go first. 1.2. If the relative is the subject of a clause and refers to an inanimate antecedent, which or that must be used. The book thats on the table is mine. The book which is on the table is mine. 1.3. IMPORTANT: Omission: As subject of a clause, the relative pronoun can never be omitted. However, the relative clause can be completely omitted: The book is on the table is mine is quite impossible, but The book on the table is mine is perfectly acceptable.

2. The relative pronoun as object: When the relative is the direct object of the clause, and refers to a human, the relative pronoun is either whom or that. Examples: The man whom I saw yesterday is 99. The man that I saw yesterday is 99. Alternatively, the relative can be omitted, particularly in spoken language: The man I saw yesterday is 99. Whom is not used very often: that, or omission of the relative pronoun, are much more common. When an inanimate object is referred to, the same rules apply, except that whom is never used: it is replaced by which. Example: The book that I was reading was very interesting, or The book which I was reading was very interesting, or The book I was reading was very interesting are all possible Omission: when it is the object of the clause, the relative pronoun can often be omitted, particularly in written English. 3. The relative pronoun as a possessive Whose is required with both animate and inanimate antecedents: it is the only derivative of who which can refer to animates and inanimates: Examples: I know someone whose sister is a nurse. The man whose car I borrowed is very rich. I chose the set whose price was reduced. 4. Relative clauses starting with a prepositon: Note how to form relative clauses after prepositions: The man with whom I was talking was angry. The chair on which I sat down collapsed. 5. More complex structures:

5.1 Possession + propositon: The player on whose skills the match most depended, was the goalkeeper. 5.2. Selective possession The caf, most of whose customers had deserted it, had to close. The writer, the first of whose books had been a bestseller, was a coal miner. 6. Defining and non-defining relatives. A "Defining" relative clause is one which is essential for the understanding of a statement. Examples: Protestors who smash windows will be arrested. In this example, it is clear that "all protestors who smash windows" will be arrested. The word "protestors" in this example is restricted by the relative clause that defines it Commas are not required before and after the relative clause. In a non-defining relative clause, the relative clause is not essential for an understanding of the sentence: Protestors, who are mostly aged under 30, want to express an opinion. In this example, the question of age is not an essential bit of information. The relative clause can be omitted without making the sentence meaningless. In cases like this, commas are usually required before and after the relative clause. Compare these two examples: People who eat too much tend to have poorer health. Sportsmen, who pay attention to their diet, are not usually over-weight.

7: Relative clauses which qualify a whole sentence, not just a noun: The relative clause is introduced by which, never that or what. C1. He drank too much, which is why he was sick. C2. It was raining yesterday, which was rather a pity.

1. The relative pronoun as subject 1.1. When the relative pronoun is subject of a clause and refers to a human, the relative pronoun who is generally used. Examples: The man who lives next door is 99. I know someone who eats red hot chilli peppers. Sometimes, who is replaced by that, especially in American English and in spoken language: The boy that lost his watch was careless. However, The boy who lost his watch was careless. is also quite possible. After the antecedent those, who is almost always required: Those who can swim should go first.

1.2. If the relative is the subject of a clause and refers to an inanimate antecedent, which or that must be used. The book thats on the table is mine. The book which is on the table is mine. 1.3. IMPORTANT: Omission: As subject of a clause, the relative pronoun can never be omitted. However, the relative clause can be completely omitted: The book is on the table is mine is quite impossible, but The book on the table is mine is perfectly acceptable.

2. The relative pronoun as object: When the relative is the direct object of the clause, and refers to a human, the relative pronoun is either whom or that. Examples: The man whom I saw yesterday is 99. The man that I saw yesterday is 99. Alternatively, the relative can be omitted, particularly in spoken language: The man I saw yesterday is 99. Whom is not used very often: that, or omission of the relative pronoun, are much more common. When an inanimate object is referred to, the same rules apply, except that whom is never used: it is replaced by which. Example: The book that I was reading was very interesting, or The book which I was reading was very interesting, or The book I was reading was very interesting are all possible Omission: when it is the object of the clause, the relative pronoun can often be omitted, particularly in written English. 3. The relative pronoun as a possessive Whose is required with both animate and inanimate antecedents: it is the only derivative of who which can refer to animates and inanimates: Examples: I know someone whose sister is a nurse. The man whose car I borrowed is very rich. I chose the set whose price was reduced. 4. Relative clauses starting with a prepositon: Note how to form relative clauses after prepositions: The man with whom I was talking was angry. The chair on which I sat down collapsed. 5. More complex structures: 5.1 Possession + propositon: The player on whose skills the match most depended, was the goalkeeper. 5.2. Selective possession

The caf, most of whose customers had deserted it, had to close. The writer, the first of whose books had been a bestseller, was a coal miner. 6. Defining and non-defining relatives. A "Defining" relative clause is one which is essential for the understanding of a statement. Examples: Protestors who smash windows will be arrested. In this example, it is clear that "all protestors who smash windows" will be arrested. The word "protestors" in this example is restricted by the relative clause that defines it Commas are not required before and after the relative clause. In a non-defining relative clause, the relative clause is not essential for an understanding of the sentence: Protestors, who are mostly aged under 30, want to express an opinion. In this example, the question of age is not an essential bit of information. The relative clause can be omitted without making the sentence meaningless. In cases like this, commas are usually required before and after the relative clause. Compare these two examples: People who eat too much tend to have poorer health. Sportsmen, who pay attention to their diet, are not usually over-weight.

7: Relative clauses which qualify a whole sentence, not just a noun: The relative clause is introduced by which, never that or what. C1. He drank too much, which is why he was sick. C2. It was raining yesterday, which was rather a pity.