What are Relative Clauses?

So what are Relative Clauses? Basically, a relative clauses means you can put two pieces of information together into a single sentence. The relative clause is the part of a sentence that identifies people or things, or add some additional information to the sentence.  Relative clauses are introduced using relative pronouns.

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The relative pronouns are:

Relative pronouns Used for… Can replace…
WHO people he, she, we, they
WHOM* people him, her, us, them
WHOSE people his, hers, our, their
THAT people OR things A wide range of words
WHICH things A wide range of words
*WHOM is become a little old fashioned now, and is often not used (‘who’ is used instead).

Here are some examples of sentence combined using relative clauses:

Marc is a doctor. He comes from France. > Marc, who comes from France, is a doctor.

I met a teacher at the conference. She invited me.  > I was invited by the teacher whom I met at the conference.

The photographer is currently in New Zealand. Her work involves a huge amount of international travel.  > The photographer, whose work involves a huge amount of international travel, is currently in New Zealand.

You wanted me to get you a book. Here is it. > Here’s the book that you wanted me to get.

My house is not very big. It is in the country. > My house, which is in the country, is not very big.


Notice how the clause immediately follows the noun it relates to. To illustrate, in the examples below, the clause relates to the noun ‘game’.

The game that they are playing originated from France. The game originated from France that they are playing.

There are 2 situations in spoken English when you don’t need to say the relative pronoun.

1. When the pronoun is the object of the relative clause.

  • Do you know the person (who/m) John is meeting?
  • Here’s the money (which) you gave you last week. Thanks!
  • I liked that dinner (that) we had last night.

2. When the relative clause contains the auxiliary verb ‘to be’ and a +ed / +ing verb

  • Who’s that woman (who is) wearing the red dress?
  • The clothes (that are) lying on the floor need to be picked up.
  • She was driving a car (which was) owned by her friend.


We hope this lesson on What are relative clauses has helped! Now move on the next page where we look at the 2 different types of relative clause – defining and non-defining.

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