Relative Clauses

Relative Clauses are clauses that start with relative pronouns who, whose, that, which and relative adverbs where, when, why, etc.

Relative clauses are like adjectives. They describe or identify something. They are also used to give additional information. A relative clause cam consist of {a relative pronoun and a verb} or {a relative pronoun, the subject and a verb} depending on whether it refers to a subject or an object. Let me explain with some examples:

The man who I was speaking with is my uncle.

My Uncle, who works as a Consultant, has recently moved to this city.

In the first example, the relative clause who I was speaking with identifies who the speaker was referring to i.e., his uncle.

In the second, it is just providing additional information about the speaker’s uncle and it is not identifying anybody.

When a relative clause identifies someone or something, it is called a restrictive relative clause. When it provides additional information, it is called a non-restrictive relative clause.

We’ll now see how to identify someone or something using relative clauses. Remember that we can identify a subject or an object of a sentence using relative clauses. Based on what it identifies, a relative clause may consist of either a {relative pronoun + verb} or {relative pronoun + subject + verb}

When identifying a subject, the structure of the sentence is as following:

{Noun + relative pronoun/adverb + verb}


The girl who appeared for the interview is the boss’ niece.

Here, we’re identifying the subject girl by describing who she is. The person who appeared for the interview is the girl itself, who is the subject of the sentence.

When identifying an object, the structure of the sentence looks like the following:

{Noun + relative pronoun/adverb + subject + verb}


The girl who I like lives two blocks away.

Here, the speaker likes the girl. So she’s the object of the sentence. Hence, the relative clause who I like tells us who the speaker likes, which is the girl.

You can omit a relative pronoun from the sentence if it identifies an object. Meaning, the above sentence can also be written as,

The girl I like lives two blocks away.

We use who to refer to people and which to refer to things, animals, etc. However, we can use that to refer to people, animals, and things.

For example, you can say,

The girl who I like lives two blocks away. 


The girl that I like lives two blocks away.

You can say,

I ate the ice cream which I bought yesterday.


I ate the ice cream that I bought yesterday.

Let’s take a look at some sentences with relative adverbs.

This is the restaurant where we first met.

It was 1 o’clock when we started from our house.

Lack of jobs is the reason why we moved out of that city.

There is a possessive relative pronoun whose. It is used to refer to someone or something that belongs to someone else.

Ex: He is the man whose son won 100% scholarship.

We also spoke about relative clauses which provide additional information but do not identify anyone at the beginning of this lesson. Following are a few examples of them:

My boss, who lives a luxurious life, rarely gives to charity.

The restaurant, which is the oldest in town, makes delicious food.

Louis beach, where we hung out all the time, was recently closed.