ENGLISH GRAMMAR Relative Clauses
There are two types of relative clauses:
1. Defining relative clauses
2. Non-defining relative clauses
DEFINING RELATIVE CLAUSES
These describe the preceding noun in such a way to distinguish it from other nouns of the same class. A clause of this kind is essential to clear understanding of the noun. The boy who was playing is my brother.
Defining Relative Pronouns
Defining Relative Clauses: people
A. Subject: who or that
Who is normally used:
The man who robbed you has been arrested.
The girls who serve in the shop are the owner’s daughters. But that is a possible alternative after all, everyone, everybody, no one, nobody and those: Everyone who/that knew him liked him.
Nobody who/that watched the match will ever forget it.
B. Object of a verb: whom, who or that
The object form is whom, but it is considered very formal. In spoken English we normally use who or that (that being more usual than who), and it is still more common to omit the object pronoun altogether:
The man whom I saw told me to come back today.
The man who I saw told me to come back today.
The man that I saw told me to come back today.
The man I saw told me to come back today.
C. With a preposition: whom or that
In formal English the preposition is placed before the relative pronoun, which must then be put into the form whom:
The man to whom I spoke…
In informal speech, however, it is more usual to move the preposition to the end of the clause. Whom then is often replaced by that, but it is still more common to omit the relative altogether: The man who/whom I spoke to…
The man that I spoke to…
The man I spoke to…
Whose is the only possible form:
People whose rents have been raised can appeal.
The film is about a spy whose wife betrays him.
To make short answers:
we use the verb to be (am/is/are/was/were) for Present Simple, Past Simple, Present Continuous, Past Continuous and Going To questions.
we use the verb have (have/has/had) for Present Perfect and Past Perfect questions. we use will for Future Simple questions.
Defining Relative Clauses: things
Either which or that. Which is more formal.
This is the picture which/that caused such a sensation.
The stairs which/that lead to the cellar are rather slippery. B. Object of a verb
Which or that or no relative at all.
The car which/that I hired broke down.
The car I hired broke down.
Which is hardly ever used after all, everything, little, much, none, no and compounds of no, or after superlatives. Instead we use that, or omit the relative altogether, if it is the object of a verb: All the apples that fall are eaten by the pigs.
This is the best hotel (that) I know.
C. Object of a preposition
The formal construction is preposition + which, but it is more usual to move the preposition to the end of the clause, using which or that or omitting the relative altogether: The ladder on which I was standing began to slip.
The ladder which/that I was standing on began to slip.
The ladder I was standing on began to slip.
Whose + a clause is possible but with + a phrase is more usual: a house whose walls were made of glass
a house with glass walls
E. Relative adverbs: when, where, why
Note that when can replace in/on which (used of time):
the year when (= in which) he was born
the day when (= in which) they arrived
Where can replace in/at which (used of place):
the hotel where (= in/at which) they were staying
Why can replace for which:
the reason why he refused is…
When, where and why used in this way are called relative adverbs. NON-DEFINING RELATIVE CLAUSES
Non-defining relative clauses are placed after nouns which are definite already. They do not therefore define the noun. But merely add...
Bibliography: - A. J. Thomson and A.V. Martinet, A Practical English Grammar, Oxford University Press, 1986
- N. Coe, Grammar Spectrum 3, Oxford University Press, 1996
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