Unit 7.1

Defining Relative Clauses

Complex Clauses

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Introduction

Relative clauses (defining and non-defining) are used to give extra information about a person, a thing etc. {see Relative pronouns, A1 level}

Defining relative clauses are clauses that give essential information in order to define the person or thing we are talking about.

Form

Defining clauses appear after the noun they describe.

Their structure is:
Subject + Relative Pronoun + Relative Clause + Verb + …
Subject + Verb + Object + Relative Pronoun + Relative Clause + …

The Relative Pronouns that introduce defining clauses, are:

  • That (relating to both people and things);
  • Which (relating to things);
  • Who (relating to people).

NOTE: We cannot use comma to separate defining relative clauses.

Example

  • The man who lives next door is going to organize a cocktail party.
  • My aunt who works in a school became a widow two days ago.
  • The man that celebrated his silver wedding anniversary is 53 years old.
  • He attended the seminar which I’ve been telling you about.
  • She took part in the conference which hosts the most famous speakers.
  • They visited the school that offers free adult education.

Use

We use defining relative clauses to give an essential information about somebody or something that we refer to.

Summary

Defining relative clauses are clauses that give essential information in order to define the person or thing we are talking about. The relative pronouns that introduce defining clauses are: that, which and who. {see Relative pronouns, A1 level}

We can find defining relative clauses either after the subject or after the object of the main clause. They are introduced by a relative pronoun followed by the relative clause and, if they identify the subject, the verb of the main clause. They are not separated by commas.

For example:

— “The film which the girl recommended to Tom was amazing.” = The defining relative clause that starts with which identifies and gives essential information about the subject of the sentence the film.
— “Do you know the girl who is talking with Tom?” =  The defining relative clause that starts with who identifies and gives essential information about the object of the sentence the girl.

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section that shows its use within a context.
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