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     Essential/Restrictive Elements

Essential--also known as restrictive--elements limit the meaning of a noun or pronoun.  In other words, an essential element provides information that is essential to understand a noun or pronoun.  Essential elements are not set off by commas.


Relative clauses can be essential.

   --The professor  who teaches Seng's biology class has written three textbooks.

                 Without the relative clause, the reader would not know which professor the sentence is about.

  --I looked at many apartments, and I rented the onethat is closest to campus.

                 The relative clause gives information that is essential to understand which one I rented.

  --To run comfortably, an athlete needs to wear shortsthat are light-weight and

    breathable, and moisture-wicking.

                 The relative clause explains the exact characteristics of the shorts an athlete needs to wear.


In the sentences above, the relative clauses provide information

that is essential to understand the nouns and pronouns they

describe.  In the sentences below, the relative clauses provide

information that is non-essential to understand the nouns they

describe.  Notice that these non-essential relative clauses are set

off by commas.

    --Janice Eiferman, who teaches Seng's biology class, has written three textbooks.

    --I looked at many apartments, and I rented one in the Longfellow Complex, which is

      closest to campus.

   --To run comfortably, athletes need to wear synthetic jogging shorts, which are light-             weight, breathable, and moisture-wicking.