Defining Relative Clauses (Definition and Examples)
What are Defining Relative Clauses?
A relative clause that identifies or describes a particular person or thing is called defining relative clause. This type of clause is essential to understand a statement. The other names used for defining relative clauses are restrictive or integrated relative clauses.
The relative pronoun (e.g., who, whose, that, which, and whom) introduces defining relative clauses.
Let’s look at some examples to know the use of defining relative clauses.
Students who use phones during the lecture will be expelled from the classroom.
This example tells us that “students who use phones during the lecture “will be expelled but suggests that those who do not use phones during lectures will not be expelled from the classroom. The relative clause restricted the noun “students” in this example.
The baby was beautiful.
We don’t know which baby was beautiful. Let’s make this sentence more meaningful by adding a relative clause.
The baby who I saw in the park yesterday was beautiful.
The clause ‘who I saw in the park’ is a relative clause, and the information it contains is essential to the meaning of this sentence; therefore, it is a defining relative clause.
The party was boring.
Which party? We don’t know. This sentence doesn’t state which party was boring. We should add some more information to clearly state which party was boring.
The party that we were invited to yesterday was boring.
It is important to note that the main clause and the defining relative clause should not be separated by a comma.
Rules of Restrictive Relative Clauses
Defining relative clauses is integral to the sentences, so do not use punctuation to separate them from their antecedent. For example
The boy will always remember the hotel where he celebrated his first birthday.
(The part where he celebrated his first birthday is giving such information, which is essential to the sentence’s meaning, so we can’t separate it from the rest of the sentence with any punctuation.)
They can appear in the middle or after the main clause.
- We are looking for a flat that we will live in for one month.
- He invited a lot of people who brought different types of gifts.
- The river that we visited yesterday was hazardous.
- The family who lives next to us has several cars.
- The shoes which she bought are beautiful.
They give essential information about people and things. Replacing who or which by that is not a rule; instead, it is an option.
- Does anyone know any who knows how to fix a car?
(Here, the pronoun ‘who’ is used for person)
- We need a computer for our office that works perfectly.
(Here ‘that’ used for thing)
- He is the doctor that I saw last Monday.
(Here, ‘that’ is used for person)
Omission of “that” In Restrictive Clauses
The pronoun ‘that’ can be omitted in defining/restrictive relative clauses. For example, the relative pronoun is omitted in the second sentence in the below pair of sentences.
- Is this the watch that you lent her?
- Is this the watch you lent her?
- This is the problem that we are talking about.
- This is the problem we are talking about.
Defining relative clauses are preferred to be placed immediately after the nouns; they add information to or as close as possible to the nouns in a sentence.
- I joined the companywhich your brother had recommended to me.
The defining relative clause appears just after the noun it modifies in this sentence.
Subjects and Objects in Defining/Restrictive or integrated Relative Clauses
Like other clauses defining relative clauses also consists of a subject and a verb. The defining relative clauses usually start with relative pronouns such as who, which, whom, that, and which. These relative pronouns can be the subject or object of the verb in the corresponding defining relative clause.
- I have a boy who plays the guitar.
(who is used as the subject)
- The police will arrest a person who rides a bike without a helmet.
(Here, ‘who’ is the subject)
- I finally find the bike which the man stole.
(The pronoun ‘which’ is the object of the stole, and ‘the man’ is the subject of the verb stole)
The relative pronoun who and whom can be used interchangeably in defining relative clauses as the object.
- He’s a player who/whom many people say is at the peak of his career.
A subject or object to the relative clause should not be added in addition to the relative pronoun.
- The woman who gave me the fruit was the owner of a big shop. (not The woman who she gave me…)
When a relative pronoun is used as the subject, it must appear in the sentence, but it can be left out if it appears as the object of the defining relative.
Examples of Defining Relative Clauses
The following are examples of defining relative clauses. The defining relative clause is written in bold in each sentence, and the noun it modifies is underlined.
- The phonethat I purchased was stolen by someone yesterday.
(That I purchased is a restrictive clause modifying the word phone.)
- Any candidatewhose application is not approved will need to pay extra charges.
(Whose application is not approved is a restrictive clause that modifies the noun candidate.)
- The village where we live is a beautiful place.
(Where we were live is a defining clause that modifies the word village.)
- He is the manwhose leg was broken in an accident.
- Maybe there is a doctorthat you can ask.
- Invite some studentswho can collect all the assignments for you.
- The restaurantwhich has many dishes is also the most expensive.
- I need a manwho comes from another city.
- I will find the reasonwhy he always comes late.
- The buildingwhich I built was destroyed by flood.
- His brother is engaged to a girlwho’s the daughter of a minister.
- The shop is for sale that is next to the station.
- I saw the butcherwho gave us rotten meat in mall street yesterday.
If we remove defining relative clause in each sentence, it will not be clear who or what the speaker is talking about. For example, take the sentence ‘The villagewhere we were live is a very beautiful place.’ And remove the defining relative clause.
The village is a very beautiful place.
(It is not clear which village is a beautiful place. So, the information given in the defining relative clause is essential to the meaning of this sentence.)