Non-defining relative clause

( Free Online English Grammar Lessons )

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In English we use non-defining relative clauses to give extra information about a person, place or thing. Sentences with non-defining relative clauses have meaning with or without the clause.

Example sentences :

  • This building, which was designed by Gaudi, is a tourist attraction in Barcelona.

This sentence also makes sense without the clause: This building is a tourist attraction in Barcelona.

  • I went to Japan in 1984, when I was 14 years old, as an exchange student.

Notice the sentence makes perfect sense with or without the non-defining relative clause: I went to Japan in 1984 as an exchange student. 

Non-defining relative clauses must be put between commas, you can never leave out the relative pronoun, and you cannot use 'that' in place of 'who' or 'which'.

Example sentences :

  • Alice Springs, where my mother grew up, is in the middle of Australia.
  • My friend, who plays the trumpet, is in a concert next week.
  • The sandals, which cost $99, come in black, brown or red.


Notes for use of non-defining relative clauses :

In non-defining relative clauses, 'who' or 'which' can also refer to a whole clause.

  • The game of cricket lasts until every player is bowled out, which makes for a very long game! (which refers to the fact that the game of cricket lasts until every player is bowled out)

Non-defining relative clauses are more common in written English than spoken English, especially in more formal types of writing.

Non-defining relative clause example sentences
I need a wooden spoon to stir the rice, which I've already found.


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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