Defining and Non-defining Relative Clauses

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Defining and Non-defining Relative Clauses in English

1. Defining Relative Clauses

Defining relative clauses give essential information about the noun they describe. Without this clause, the sentence wouldn’t make complete sense.

Relative Pronouns Used

Common relative pronouns used in defining relative clauses are who, whom, which, that, and whose.

Examples

  • The person who called you is my friend.
  • The book that you lent me was fascinating.
  • She is the artist whose paintings we saw at the gallery.
  • This is the house which Jack built.

Important Points

  • Do not use commas to separate the defining relative clause from the main clause.
  • That can replace who or which in defining relative clauses.
  • Example: The car that he drives is new. (instead of “which”)

2. Non-defining Relative Clauses

Non-defining relative clauses add extra information about the noun they describe. This information is not essential for the sentence to make sense.

Relative Pronouns Used

Common relative pronouns used in non-defining relative clauses are who, whom, which, and whose. Note that that is not used in non-defining relative clauses.

Examples

  • My brother, who lives in New York, is coming to visit.
  • The Eiffel Tower, which is in Paris, is a famous landmark.
  • Mr. Johnson, whose son is my classmate, is a lawyer.

Important Points

  • Always use commas to separate the non-defining relative clause from the main clause.
  • Non-defining relative clauses cannot be introduced by that.
  • The pronoun cannot be omitted in non-defining relative clauses.

3. Differences Between Defining and Non-defining Clauses

  • Defining: Essential information, no commas.
  • Non-defining: Additional information, use commas.

4. Examples in Sentences

Defining Relative Clauses

  • The man who stole my car has been arrested.
  • The movie that we watched last night was thrilling.

Non-defining Relative Clauses

  • My neighbor, who is a retired teacher, enjoys gardening.
  • London, which is the capital of England, is a very old city.

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