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Defining relative clause

( Free Online English Grammar Lessons )

Read time : 2 minutes

In English we use defining relative clauses to give important information about a person, place or thing.

We use :

"who" or "that" for people

  • He's the man who lives next door.
  • She's the woman that works in the cafe.
  • People who smoke often develop breathing problems.

"which" or "that" for things

  • A clock is a thing which tells the time.
  • This is the letter that I was talking about.
  • This is the dress that I bought for $5.
  • The novel that I am reading is part of a trilogy.

"where" for places where an activity takes place

  • A post office is a place where you can buy stamps.
  • This is the restaurant where we had our first date.
  • Perth is the city where I grew up.

"whose" for possessives

  • Jason is the boy whose parents own the newsagent.
  • That's the girl whose mother is a ballet dancer.

"when" for times

  • My grandmother lived at a time when women were expected to become either teachers or nurses.

Note : We don't use "what" in relative clauses!

eg. These are the jeans that I want to buy. NOT These are the jeans what I want to buy.

In defining relative clauses, we can leave out "who", "that" or "which" when these words aren't the subject of the defining relative clause.

  • He's the man (that) I met yesterday.
  • Mary found the watch (that) I lost last week.

We never leave out "whose'" in defining relative clauses. We can leave out "where" if we add a preposition at the end of the relative clause.

  • That's the city where I was born. = That's the city I was born in.

We can leave out "when" if the time reference is clear.

  • Next Tuesday is the day (when) my sister arrives.

Note : We don't use commas with defining relative clauses.



Be going to
Be going to passive
Be used to / Get used to
Comparative
Defining relative clause
Echo tag
Expression
First conditional
Future
Future continuous
Future perfect continuous
Future perfect passive
Future perfect simple
Future simple passive
Greeting
Have/Get something done
Imperative
Implied conditional
Indirect question
Infinitive of purpose
Interjection
Mixed conditional
Modal
Modal passive
Non-defining relative clause
Other
Past continuous
Past continuous passive
Past perfect continuous
Past perfect passive
Past perfect simple
Past simple
Past simple passive
Polite request / offer / suggestion
Present continuous
Present continuous passive
Present perfect continuous
Present perfect passive
Present perfect simple
Present simple
Present simple passive
Question tag
Reduced relative clause
Reported speech imperative
Reported speech question
Reported speech request
Reported speech statement
Second conditional
Short answer
Superlative
Third conditional
Used to / would (past habit)
Was/were going to
Was/were supposed to
Wish
Would rather
Zero conditional