Relative Clauses for intermediate learners

Relative clauses give us more information about people and things. They are used to combine clauses and avoid repetition. Click here to learn!

"Relative Clauses" in the English Grammar

What Are Relative Clauses?

Relative clauses are dependent clauses that begin with a relative pronoun, a relative adverb, or a relative determiner. These clauses can be nominal or adjectival.

Relative Clauses: Types

In English, there are two types of relative clauses:

Now, let us explore each:

Adjectival Relative Clauses

Adjectival relative clauses function as adjectives and describe nouns or noun phrases in a sentence. They can begin with relative pronouns or relative adverbs. Pay attention to the examples:

I'm not sure I know what you are talking about.

This adjectival relative clause begins with a relative pronoun (what).

The old man that is walking slowly to the bench is my husband. (With a relative pronoun)

This adjectival relative clause begins with a relative pronoun (that).

Are you talking about the building where we found the last victim?

This adjectival relative clause begins with a relative adverb (where).

Ursula remembered the day when she graduated.

This adjectival relative clause begins with a relative adverb (when).

Warning!

Keep in mind that when a relative pronoun is referring to a noun already present in the sentence, it is no longer considered a relative pronoun; instead, it functions as a relative adverb.

Nominal Relative Clauses

Nominal relative clauses mainly function as the subject, object, or complement of the independent clause. They typically begin with nominal relative pronouns or relative determiners. Look at the examples below:

I can date whoever I want so stop bossing around.

Here, 'whoever' is a nominal relative pronoun serving as object of the independent clause.

Why do you get angry whenever he decides to spend time with his friends?

'Whenever' is also a nominal relative pronoun.

Which country he is in isn't really the case right now.

Here, 'which' is a relative determiner as it is followed by a noun.

I think she doesn't know which cat you're talking about.

One again, 'which' is a relative determiner.

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