Unit 9.2

Adjective subordinate or Relative subordinate sentences



The subordinate clause [oración subordinada] is a type of compound sentence structurally dependent on the nucleus of another sentence, called the main sentence [oración principal].

There are three types of subordinate clauses: noun, adjective (or relative), and adverbial

Adjective or relative subordinate clauses [oraciones subordinadas adjectivas o de relativo] perform an adjective concerning a word in the main sentence and are connected to the main sentence relative pronouns.


Adjective or relative subordinate clauses play the role of an adjective in a compound sentence. They are introduced by the relative pronoun que,  which functions as a subject or direct object.

They have the following structure:
Antecedent (noun) + relative pronoun que + indicative (present/past/future).

The indicative is used when what is said of the antencent is something known.

Adjective or relative subordinate clauses can be of two types, either specific or explanatory:

Specific adjective subordinate clauses

Specific (or restrictive) adjective subordinate clauses cannot be omitted from the whole sentence, as they provide the necessary information, and their omission would change the meaning.

In specific subordinate clauses, the comma is not used, and they follow this structure:

Main sentence + que + relative clause + main sentence.

Explanatory adjective subordinate clauses

Explanatory adjective subordinate clauses can be omitted without changing the meaning of the whole sentence, as they are not necessary to understand it.

Explanatory subordinate clauses do include a comma and follow this structure:

Main clause, + que + relative clause, + main sentence.


Specific adjectives:

  • El restaurante que está en el centro es muy caro;
  • La paella que me han servido estaba sosa;
  • La mesa que nos asignaron estaba coja.

Explanatory adjectives:

  • El postre, que es de chocolate, está muy bueno;
  • El menú, que está expuesto en el mostrador, es muy variado;
  • La ensalada, que no tiene sal, es muy sana.


Adjective (or relative) subordinate clauses modify/characterize a noun (antecedent) of the main sentence.

Specific (or restrictive) adjective subordinate clauses are used to restrict the meaning of the noun they develop.


In Spanish, relative or adjective subordinate clauses have the function of an adjective; they are connected to the main sentence through the relative pronoun que. An adjective can replace this subordinate clause.

For example:

— «El niño que vimos ayer tuvo un accidente» = They specify which niño it is;

— «Ese niño, que va de rojo, tuvo un accidente» = They explain and give more ifnromation about ese niño.

Check the contents of the {Form} section. Then move on to the {Example} section, which shows you the usage in context.


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