Adjective / Relative Clauses


We use relative clauses to combine two simple sentences with the same noun phrases.

There are two types of relative clauses

1) Defining
2) Non-defining

Defining Relative Clauses


Specify a particular noun. (Use who, that)

The girl who is the best in our class is Nayad. The ring that was stolen from my room hasn't been found yet.

Non-defining Relative Clauses


They are used with an already defined noun, so; they just give extra information and we usually put commas around. (who/which)

My father, who lives in Belgium, is a chemist. (No need to define my father.)
** Relative clauses should be used after the noun they define.

Mr. Johnson is happy, he got the highest grade on the test.
Mr. Johnson, who got the highest grade on the test, is happy.

Relative Pronouns


See details at: Relative Pronouns

Adjective/Relative Clause Examples:

A dentist is a person. He gives dental treatment.
A dentist is a person who/that gives dental treatment.

We know a lot of people. They live in Minnesota.
We know a lot of people who/that live in Minnesota.

A vegetarian is a person. He/she never eats meat.
A vegetarian is a person who/that never eats meat.

Do you know the man? He discovered Africa.
Do you know the man who/that discovered Africa?

The teacher was very strict. We had him last semester.
The teacher whom/who/that we had last semester was very strict.

Note: The relative pronoun comes just after the word it refers to.

The man was drunk. He caused the accident.
The man who was drunk caused the accident.

That man is my uncle. He is coming towards us.
The/That man who is coming towards us is my uncle.

This is the horse. I like him. It (also) kicked me yesterday.
This is the horse (that) I like, which (also) kicked me yesterday.

The nails are rusty. They are in the tool-box.
The nails that are in the tool-box are rusty.

A cow is an animal. It supplies us with milk.
A cow is an animal which/that supplies us with milk.


We can also use possessive pronouns like “his/her/its” with “whose”.


A widow is a woman. Her husband is dead.
A widow is a woman whose husband is dead.

What was the name of the man? His car broke down.
What was the name of the man whose car broke down?

I know someone. Her father is a translator.
I know someone whose father is a translator.


Although the group names such as “crowd, audience, class” are of people, they are used with which/that.

There was a big crowd. It soon gathered at the scene of the accident.
There was a big crowd which/that gathered at the scene of the accident.


Relative Pronouns have the same form when they refer to masculine, feminine, singular or plural nouns. The verb in adjective clause must be singular if the subject of the relative pronoun refers to a singular noun. If plural, then the verb will be in the plural form:


The person who speaks good English is a doctor.
The people who live next door are doctors.
The plates that are on the table are very dirty.
The man who lives next to us has got a huge dog.
The men who went to the USA were very affluent.

Note that 'men' is plural for 'man'.

Using "Whose" and "of Which"

We can use “of which” instead of “whose” for the objects but “of which” is used in non-defining relative clauses.

This is the machine. I described its properties.
This is the machine whose properties I described.
This is the machine, the properties of which I described.
I stayed at a fantastic hotel. It’s facilities are fabulous.
I stayed at a fantastic hotel whose facilities are fabulous.
I stayed at a fantastic hotel, the facilities of which are fabulous.

Some Details


  • We cannot use “that” after a comma.
  • We cannot use “zero“ after a comma.
  • We use “zero” in defining sentences when followed by a subject.
  • We can use “who” instead of “whom” but without preposition.
  • ”Whose” should always be followed by a noun.

  • The tree, whose leaves have turned yellow, must be cut down.
    The tree, the leaves of which have turned yellow, must be cut down.

    The doctor whose car is on sale now, demands too much money for it.
    The doctor the car of whom is on sale now, demands too much money.
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