- We use relative clauses to describe or give extra information about something we have already mentioned.
- Pronouns who, that, which, whose, whom, when, where are often used to introduce relative clauses. Remember that we use:
which for things
who for people
that for things or people
whose for possession
where for a place
when for time
- There are two kinds of relative clauses: defining and non-defining.
- Defining relative clauses are used to give essential information about someone or something. They are clauses that you need in the sentence for it to make sense.
- In defining relative clauses we may use that instead of who or which.
- E.g. The officials who / that work in the Foreign Office are often referred to as Foreign Service officers.
- We may leave out the relative pronoun when it is the object of the verb:
- E.g. He is the public figure (who/that) the whole world knows.
- NB! There are no commas before and after the defining relative clause.
- Non-defining relative clauses are used to give extra information which isn’t absolutely necessary.
- E.g. Alexander Vershbow, who was US ambassador to Russia from 2001 to 2005, gave an opening address at the conference held on Monday.
- NB! We use commas to separate a non-defining relative clause from the rest of the sentence.
- Warning: In a non-defining relative clause you cannot use that instead of who, whom, or which.
- Remember! A non-defining relative clause may refer to all the information contained in the independent clause, preceding it, not just one noun.
- In this case which is to be used.
- E.g. The conference was attended only by junior officials, which was unusual.
- Remember! When whom has a preposition, the preposition usually comes at the beginning of the clause.
- When who has a preposition, the preposition usually comes at the end of the clause.
- e.g. James Johnson, to whom everyone referred as Mr.J., visited the embassy.
- James Johnson, who everyone referred to as Mr.J., visited the embassy.
- Remember! Whose is used for possession.
- It is used for things as well as for people.
- E.g. We invite only those people whose credentials are carefully examined in advance.
- I have found a document whose front page is missing.