Introduction to Relative Clauses
Before discussing defining and non-defining relative clauses, it's important to understand what a relative clause is. A relative clause is a type of clause that contains the element in question, also known as the antecedent, along with a relative pronoun or adverb. The relative clause usually comes immediately after the noun it is describing. Relative clauses can either be defining (restrictive) or non-defining (non-restrictive).
Defining Relative Clauses
Defining relative clauses, also referred to as restrictive relative clauses, give essential information about the noun or pronoun it follows. They are necessary for the complete understanding of the sentence. If removed, the meaning of the sentence is altered or becomes unclear. These clauses do not require punctuation to separate them from the rest of the sentence.
Examples of Defining Relative Clauses:
Forming Defining Relative Clauses
Defining relative clauses are introduced by relative pronouns or sometimes by a relative adverb. These include: that, who, whom, whose, which, where, when, and why.
However, in everyday English, we normally use 'that' instead of 'whom' or 'which'. Also, 'that' and 'whom' can often be omitted when they are the object of the verb.
Non-defining Relative Clauses
Non-defining relative clauses, also known as non-restrictive relative clauses, provide additional information that is not essential to the understanding of the sentence. This information, if removed, does not alter the main message of the sentence because it is merely additional data. These clauses are usually separated from the rest of the sentence by commas, parentheses, or dashes.
Examples of Non-defining Relative Clauses:
Forming Non-Defining Relative Clauses
Non-defining relative clauses are introduced by relative pronouns (who, which, whose), but never by 'that'. Also, these pronouns cannot be omitted. Moreover, in non-defining relative clauses, we use 'whom' to refer to people when it is the object of the verb.
In defining relative clauses, we can use 'where' for place and 'when' for time. However, in non-defining relative clauses, we only use 'which' to refer to a whole situation, or we use 'at which' for a particular time.
Understanding the differences between defining and non-defining relative clauses is crucial for creating clear and effective sentences in English. They help provide vital or extra details and paint a more complete picture for the reader or listener. When properly applied, these clauses greatly enhance our writing and speaking skills, making our communication more engaging, informative, and meaningful.