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Relative clauses

There are two kinds of relative clauses

Look at the sentences below
A A philatelist is a person who collects stamps.
B My son, who collects stamps, is preparing a presentation.
In A, the relative clause is defining. It tells us what a philatelist is. If you do not add the
words in bold the sentence makes no sense! The relative clause cannot be omitted.
In B, the relative clause is non-defining. It adds extra information and could be omitted from
the sentence.

Discuss the differences in meaning of the following.

My son, who lives in new York, is a teacher.
My son who lives in Manchester is a teacher.

Politicians who tell lies are to be despised.

Politicians, who tell lies, are to be despised.

Defining relative clauses


who (that)

that (which)



NB - The forms in brackets () are possible but not common.

The woman who is wearing the red scarf is my wife. subject
Fleming? Wasnt he the man who discovered penicillin? subject
The team that wins will represent the county. subject
A corkscrew is an instrument that is used for opening bottles of wine. subject
No relative pronoun is necessary when it introduces a relative clause that defines the object
of a sentence.
The man (that) you met yesterday was my father. - object
Where is the chocolate (that) I bought earlier? Have you eaten it? object
The road (that) we wanted to go down was blocked. object


Is preferred to which in the following cases after superlatives, every (thing), some(thing), any(thing), all, the only and it is

This is the biggest plane that has ever flown.

Give me something that will take the pain away.
He is good at any sport that is played with a racquet.
All that is needed is a little time.
The only thing that matters is we win the match!
It is the lack of money that is stopping us from moving at the moment.

What is used in defining relative clauses to mean the thing that
Has he told you what is upsetting him?
What I need to understand is why you are always late!

Prepositions usually come at the end of the relative clause

Come and meet the man who I was telling you about.
Shes a friend (that) I can always depend on.

Non-defining relative clauses










Note that is NOT used in non-defining relative clauses.

Whom is possible but is not used as often.

Bob Smith, who has starred in many films, will be appearing at the theatre tomorrow.
My favourite drink is whisky, which is Britains biggest export. - subject
John Smith, who the PM fired from the post of Finance Minister, has become the
chairman of the bank. object
I gave him a sandwich, which he ate greedily. object


Can be used in non-defining relative clauses to refer to the whole sentence before

He arrived on time, which surprised everybody.

She passed all her exams, which made her parents very proud.
The dvd player is broken, which means we cant watch any films tonight.


Can be used in both defining and non-defining relative clauses.

It introduces relative clauses that describe possession of people, places, things Thats the woman whose son is in prison. defining
My grandparents, whose dream is to retire to the coast, have just sold their house. nondefining

When we speak, there is no pause before or after a defining relative clause, and no commas
when we write
My friend who went to Thailand had a great time. (No commas, no pauses)
My friend (pause), who got married last year (pause), had a great time in Thailand.

Why, when, where

1 why can be used in defining relative clauses to mean the reason why
I dont know why we are arguing.
2 When and where can be used in both defining and non-defining relative clauses
Tell me when you expect to arrive - defining
The hotel where we stayed was beautiful - defining
We go jogging early in the morning, when everybody else is sleeping non-defining
He lives in London, where my sister also lives non-defining

Complete the sentences with - who, that, whose or where.
If who or that is not necessary leave the sentence as it is.

1 Agatha Christies was a writer wrote detective stories.

2 She worked in a hospital during the war she got her inspiration
for her stories.
3- She met some Belgian refugees there stories gave her the idea for her
Belgian detective, Poirot.
4 The book I have read by Agatha Christie is Murder on the
Orient Express.
5 She left England and moved to the Canary Islands,she continued to
6 Agatha Christie, career was very successful, died in 1976.