imageGet Ideas, Answers, and Help delivered straight to your email.

Discover 7 keys in this FREE email mini-course and become a better language teacher... NOW!



Non-Defining Relative Clauses

User Rating:  / 21

What is a non-defining relative clause?
A non-defining relative clause adds extra information about a person or thing. Unlike defining relative clauses, the information isn't essential. Compare the following:

    defining relative clause: What is the name of the person who won the Nobel Prize?
    non-defining relative clause: Al Gore, who gave a  long and boring speech, won the Nobel Prize.

If the information from a non-defining relative clause gets removed, the sentence still makes sense. (Al Gore won the Nobel Prize.) This can't be said of defining relative clauses because the listener or reader can't understand to whom the first speaker is referring. (What is the name of the person?  >>  Which person?!)

What is the sentence structure?
Commas usually offset non-defining relative clauses, as do parenthesis or brackets. The clauses may provide additional information on the subject or the object of a sentence, and with the following pronouns:

  person   thing   place
subject   who   which  
object   who / whom   which   where
possessive   whose    

    subject: subject  |  relative pronoun  |  non-defining clause  |  verb  |  object/complement

    Al Gore  |  who  |  won the Nobel Prize  |  gave  |  a long and boring speech.
    The Nobel Prize winner  |  who  |  had worked to fight global warming  |  gave  |  a long speech.

    object: subject  |  verb  |  object  |  relative pronoun  |  non-defining clause

    Al Gore  |  gave  |  a speech  |  which  |  was boring.
    Al Gore  |  won  |  the Nobel Prize  |  which  |  was for his fight against global warming.

How are non-defining relative clauses used?
Non-defining clauses are most often used in written English, or in more formal situations like speeches. Here are some additional examples:

    Starbucks, which does business all over the world, wants to open many new stores in China.
    Social network sites, which have exploded in popularity, will greatly change business works.
    Scientists are working on with stem cells, which will hopefully revolutionize medicine.

Is there additional information on non-defining relative clauses?
Unlike defining relative clauses, the relative pronoun must be used. The follow example would be incorrect: The protestors, demanded an immediate end to the war in Iraq, marched on Washington this weekend. Here we need: The protestors, who demanded an immediate end to the war in Iraq, marched on Washington this weekend.

Quantifiers like all of, both of, or many/most of often appear with non-defining relative clauses. For example: The protesters, most of whom demanded an immediate end to the war in Iraq, marched on Washington this weekend. 

You might also be interested in:



Follow on Twitter

Become a Facebook fan

Join the newsletter

Who's Online

We have 38 guests and no members online