Adjective Clauses

Introduction to Adjective Clauses

An adjective clause, also known as a relative clause, is a type of dependent clause that functions as an adjective in a sentence. This type of clause can modify or describe a noun or pronoun in a sentence, providing more information about it. In this tutorial, we will explore the various aspects of adjective clauses to help you boost your overall understanding and usage of this grammar concept.

Identifying Adjective Clauses

An adjective clause usually starts with a relative pronoun (who, whom, which, that) or a relative adverb (such as when, where, or why). It gives more information about a noun or pronoun in the sentence.

For example, in the sentence "The car that has a flat tire belongs to John," the adjective clause is "that has a flat tire" – it describes the noun 'car' in more detail.

Types of Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses can be categorized into two main types: restrictive (or essential) adjective clauses and nonrestrictive (or nonessential) adjective clauses.

1. Restrictive Adjective Clauses

These types of adjective clauses provide essential information that defines the noun or pronoun. If you remove a restrictive adjective clause from a sentence, the sentence's core meaning will change.

For example, in the sentence, "Students who study hard usually get good grades," the adjective clause "who study hard" is crucial in identifying which students the sentence refers to. Without this clause, the sentence would suggest all students get good grades, which is not the intended meaning.

2. Nonrestrictive Adjective Clauses

Nonrestrictive adjective clauses add extra information to a sentence, but this information is not essential to understanding the sentence’s basic meaning. If you remove a nonrestrictive adjective clause, the sentence will still make sense. These types of clauses are usually set off by commas.

For instance, in the sentence, "My brother, who lives in Australia, is a doctor," the clause "who lives in Australia" is a nonrestrictive clause. It provides additional information about the brother but doesn't affect the core meaning of the sentence, which is that the speaker's brother is a doctor.

Constructing Adjective Clauses

Adjective Clauses are typically constructed in the following way:

  • Relative Pronoun/Adverb + Subject + Verb
  • Or, Relative Pronoun as Subject + Verb

For example, in the sentence "I like the girl who works in the library," "who works in the library" is an Adjective Clause where "who" is the relative pronoun serving the function of the subject in the clause, and "works" is the verb.

Common Mistakes in Using Adjective Clauses

While using adjective clauses, learners often make a few common mistakes:

Mistake 1: Incorrect Relative Pronoun

It's crucial to choose the correct relative pronoun to start an adjective clause to match the noun it's modifying, whether it's a person, thing, or place.

For example, the sentence "The man which helped me was kind" is incorrect. Since 'man' is a person, the correct relative pronoun should be 'who' or 'whom,' not 'which.'

Mistake 2: Unnecessary Use of Subject Pronouns

When the relative pronoun is the subject of the clause, you don't need to include another subject pronoun.

For instance, "The lady who she lives next door is nice" is wrong. The correct sentence is "The lady who lives next door is nice."

Practice Using Adjective Clauses

An effective way to master adjective clauses is to practice using them in sentences. Read as much as you can, and pay attention to how writers use adjective clauses. Try to write your own sentences using this concept and identify adjective clauses in the text you read.


Understanding and correctly using adjective clauses can greatly enhance your sentence structure and overall written communication. Although it might seem a bit complicated at first, with consistent practice, you'll be able to use these versatile clauses with ease and precision.

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