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The video on the right will help you better understand relative clauses.

           Relative Clauses

A relative clause is a type of dependent clause.  As a clause, a relative clause contains a subject and a verb.  The subject of a relative clause is a relative pronoun: who, whom, whose, that, which.  Because a relative clause is dependent, it cannot stand alone as a complete sentence; a relative clause must be combined with an independent clause to create a complex sentence.  A relative clause functions adjectivally to describe the subject of the independent clause that it is combined with.

          The professor  who teaches the class  is very helpful.

          Elliot plays for the team  that won the state tournament last year.

          My brother's daughter, whom I babysat yesterday, drew me this picture.

          The woman  whose house was burglarized  installed a security system.

          Tiffany's cousin Marcus, who owns a web-development company, plans to hire a                      business manager.

          3M, which started by manufacturing sandpaper, is now an international

                      company  that sells thousands of products.


A relative clause can be essential (also known as restrictive) or non-essential (also known as non-restrictive).  An essential relative

clause provides information that is necessary to

understand the overall meaning of a sentence; a

relative clause that is non-essential is not necessary to

understand the overall meaning of a sentence.  While

essential relative clauses are not set off by commas,

non-essential relative clauses are set of by commas.  

          The man  who sits next to me in class  got a perfect score on his test.

                         The relative clause in the above sentence is essential because it

                          identifies the man who got a perfect score. 

          Ahmed, who sits next to me in class, got a perfect score on his test.

                         The relative clause in the above sentence is non-essential because the

                          man who got a perfect score has already been identified.

              My neighbor  whose dog up my yard  apologized sincerely.

                         The relative clause in the above sentence is essential because without

                          it, the reader would not know which neighbor apologized.

           My next-door neighbor, whose dog dug up my yard, apologized sincerely.

                         The relative clause in the above sentence is non-essential because 

                          without it, the reader still knows which neighbor apologized.

          The hurricane  that devastated New Orleans in 2005 will never be forgotten.

                         The relative clause in the above sentence is essential because it

                         identifies the hurricane that will not be forgotten.  Notice that the

                         relative pronoun that begins essential relative clauses that describe

                         things. 

          Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, will never be

          forgotten.

                         The relative clause in the above sentence is non-essential because the

                         hurricane that will not be forgotten has already been identified. 

                         Notice that the relative pronoun which begins non-essential relative

                         clauses that describe things.