Grammar » B1 Grammar lessons and exercises » Defining and non-defining relative clauses
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  • Defining and non-defining relative clauses

    Exercise 1

    Choose the correct relative pronoun or adverb for the following defining and non-defining  relative clauses.

    Page 1 of 2

    1This is the place ______ I saw him the last time.
    a.
    b.
    c.
    2That's the man ______ daughter has won the lottery.
    a.
    b.
    c.
    3Do you know the musician ______ is playing the guitar. Choose TWO correct options
    a.
    b.
    c.
    4The painting, ______ was finished in 1850, is one of the most representative works of that time.
    a.
    b.
    c.
    5This is the person ______ I introduced you a few weeks ago. Choose TWO correct options
    a.
    b.
    c.

     

  • Defining vs non-defining – Grammar chart

    Defining and non-defining relative clauses

    Defining relative clauses

    Defining relative clauses carry essential information because they identify which thing or person we are talking about, and they are used without commas.

    • This is the music which was used at the show
    • Have they found the prisoner who escaped last week?

    We can use that

    In defining relative clauses we can use that instead of which or who.

    • This is the music that was used at the show. 
    • Have they found the prisoner that escaped last week?

    When can we omit who/which/that?

    Who/which/that, can be omitted if they are followed by subject + verb

    • Can you pass me the box (which/that) I keep in the top drawer?
    • You are not the man (who/that) I thought you were. 

     

    Non-defining relative clauses

    Non-defining relative clauses are used between commas, and they add extra information which is not necessary to know who or what we are talking about.

    • This music, which I really like, was used at the show.
    • My sister, who I truly admire, is coming for Thanksgiving. 

    We cannot use that, and we cannot omit who/which

    In non-defining relative clauses (between commas) we cannot use that, and we cannot omit who/which.

    • This music, that I really like, was used at the show. 
    • My sister, I truly admire, is coming for Thanksgiving. 

     

    Defining vs non-defining relative clauses

    In a defining relative clause the information is essential to identify who or what we are talking about, whereas in non-defining relative clauses, we just add extra information, which is not necessary. Compare:

    • My brother who lives in Cardiff is much older than me. (=I have more than one brother and the relative clause helps identify which brother I am talking about)
    • My brother, who lives in Cardiff, is much older than me. (=I have only one brother, so we don’t need the relative clause to know who I am talking about)

     

    Relative pronouns and adverbs

    Here you can see a grammar chart with the relative pronouns and adverbs that we normally use in relative clauses.
     
    Relative clauses - Relative pronouns and relative adverbs

    Common mistakes

    Two subjects

    When who, which or that is the subject of a relative clause, we don’t use another pronoun or noun after it, because we can only have one subject (who, which or that).

    • I saw a man who was very tall. (NOT: I saw a man who he was very tall.)
    • That is the painting that was stolen from the gallery. (NOT: That is the painting that it was stolen from the gallery.)

    That between commas

    We cannot use the relative pronoun that in a non-defining relative clause (between commas)

    • The victim, who suffered a concussion, said he didn’t remember the accident. (NOT, The victim, that suffered a concussion, said he didn’t remember the accident.)
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