Complex Sentences: Relative Clauses
A relative clause defines someone or something in the main clause. We use such conjunctions as that, which, when, where, who and many others to introduce a relative clause:
- She was the only person who had a look of utter devastation on her face as she heard the news.
- He stared into her cold blue eyes that didn’t promise anything good.
- It was an unwelcoming hotel which had been abandoned for a long time.
The conjunction who replaces the noun in the main clause so that we don’t have to repeat it:
- I was sitting in a cafe on the beach as I saw a man who was walking his funny pug.
A relative pronoun can either be a subject or an object in the relative clause:
- Three days ago, we bought a car which turned out to be in pretty good shape. (subject)
- Three days ago, we bought a car which you had been talking about for a month. (object)
A defining relative clause gives us the information that is necessary to understand the meaning of the sentence given. It defines either a noun or a pronoun in the main clause:
- Is this the size that you’re looking for?
- Could, all the people who have bought the tickets online for the concert follow into the right entrance?
Without relative clauses, these sentences don’t make sense.
- Is this the size? (this sentence doesn’t mean anything).
- Could all the people follow into the right entrance? (it doesn’t give us the full information).
We can use all the relative pronouns in a defining relative clause:
- Yesterday I came across a necklace that (which) my granny had received as a wedding gift.
In a relative clause, we can omit the relative pronoun when it’s an object:
- They sent her to a summer camp you had strongly recommended.
A non-defining relative clause gives us additional information about a noun or a pronoun in the main clause. If we omit the clause, the main part will still make sense:
- Arthur Rimbaud was a French poet.
- Arthur Rimbaud, who was engaged in a hectic romantic relationship with fellow poet Paul Verlaine, was a French poet.
- Arthur Rimbaud was a French poet who laid the foundation for modernist literature.
Non-defining relative clauses demonstrate consecutive actions:
- I lent the money to James, who went to the bank and closed his loan.
We always use relative pronouns which or who to introduce a non-defining clause and never use that:
- My sister, who has been training as a yoga coach for 3 years, is going to open her own yoga school very soon.
- This new kindergarten, which has recently been built near our house, can grant admission for more than 150 kids.
In written English, we use commas with a non-defining relative clause and don’t use any with a defining relative clause.
- The cafe, which is dimly lit, always attracts book readers who want to spend time in a calm place.
- A woman who was holding a little pup in her hands entered the cafe.
We can add a non-defining relative clause at the end of the sentence to comment on the information in the main clause. It’s called a sentence relative.
- We came to the destination point and found out that there was no one there, which was rather unexpected.
- I am very bad at time management, which is annoying.
- We have to pay 100 USD for the custom clearance, which is outrageous!