Anyone who’s interested in learning the fundamentals of the English language knows how complex the underlying concept of grammar and sentence structures can be.
Words aren’t just a group of letters joined together, but they serve as a primary element in developing a sentence. We use words to form sentences, sentences to compose paragraphs, and paragraphs to construct essay writings. But between the simple sentences and complex sentences that constitute our paragraphs, comes a group of related words containing a subject and a predicate or verb: clauses.
It’s easy to recognize a clause when you see one. For instance, though a close does not end with a punctuation, it can express a complete or an incomplete thought.
There are two main types of clauses: the independent clause and the dependent clause. An independent clause (or a main clause) follows a Subject + Verb = Complete Thought pattern. Take note that every sentence must consist of at least one main clause. Otherwise, it may be considered as a sentence fragment.
A dependent clause (or a subordinate clause), on the other hand, consists of a group of words with both a subject and a verb that do not convey a complete thought. Instead, it follows a unique pattern with a Subordinating Conjunction + Subject + Verb = Incomplete Thought. Since a dependent clause can never stand on its own, it must be joined with a main clause to communicate a sensible message to its receiver. You may also see clause examples.
Additionally, subordinate clauses are also classified into three different categories, namely noun clauses, adverb clauses, and relative or adjective clauses, which shall be discussed later on in the article.
To understand how these clauses are used, let’s take a look at the following examples:
Cameron is older than his sister.
The example above is an independent clause that can also be classified as a simple sentence. To turn this clause into a dependent clause, you can add subordinating conjunction or a dependent word to the beginning of the clause such as:
Because Cameron is older than his sister
Once the conjunction “because” is added to the clause, it no longer makes sense knowing that there is something missing in the expression. To fix this, you can either remove the conjunction or attach a main clause to the example. You may also like subordinate clause examples.
Because Cameron is older than his sister, he likes to boss her around.
By combining an independent clause with one or more dependent clauses, you can turn a simple sentence into a complex sentence similar to the example provided above.
A relative clause is a dependent clause used to provide additional information in a sentence by defining the noun given. This may also be referred to as an adjective clause, an adjectival clause, or a relative construction. This usually adapts, describes, or modifies a noun or a noun phrase, and is introduced by a relative pronoun (that, which, who, whom, whose) or a relative adverb (why, when, where). You may also see subordinate clause examples.
When defining a relative clause, it’s important to point its two primary types: the defining (or restrictive) relative clauses and the non-defining (or non-restrictive) relative clauses.
A defining relative clause supplies essential information about the noun to which it is referring to in the sentence. One thing to take note of is that the clause cannot be taken away from the sentence without affecting its meaning; otherwise, the remaining words may communicate something different than what the writer intended. You may also like adverb clause examples.
Let’s take this for example.
It reminded him of the brownies that his grandmother used to bake.
If we eliminate the clause being highlighted in the sentence, though it would still convey a complete thought, the idea of the sentence would be less specific and it would not make actual sense. Instead, this would leave readers wondering, “What brownies did it remind him of?” You may also check out compound sentences – writing methods & examples.
On the contrary, non-defining relative clauses provide additional information about a noun. Since the clause is nothing more than a mere accessory in the sentence, it can be dropped without affecting the meaning or structure of the given general statement.
The items inside the vault, which is believed to consist of family heirlooms, were stolen by German thieves.
Once we remove the highlighted clause in the example, the sentence would still make perfect sense. Providing a bit of background context about the noun is a common strategy that writers use to describe a noun even further without changing the overall though of a sentence. You may also see balanced sentences — usage and examples.
Take note that we can easily distinguish a defining relative clause from a non-defining relative clause by the simple use of a comma. If a comma or commas are used to separate the clause from the rest of the sentence, then the clause is simply non-defining. Otherwise, it would be a defining relative clause. You may also like conditional sentence – definition and examples.
Relative clauses may be used in various ways. For one, we use relative clauses to post-modify a noun. This is done to provide specifics about the person or thing we are referring to in a sentence. The relative pronouns who, which, whose, and that are used to introduce these clauses. You may also check out exculpatory clause examples.
As a Subject
In this category, the relative pronoun IS the subject of the sentence, therefore we do not repeat the subject after it has already been mentioned.
As an Object of a Clause
For this category, the relative pronoun acts as the object of the clause.
In most cases, when a relative pronoun is the object of its clause, it’s acceptable to leave it out.
You might be interested in simple sentence examples.
As an Object of a Preposition
Once a relative pronoun is used as the object of a preposition in the sentence, the preposition is usually placed after the verb.
Keep in mind that when the pronouns who, which, or whose are used in the sentence, they sometimes come at the beginning of the clause. You may also see fused sentence — examples and corrections.
The relative adverbs when and where to indicate time and place respectively are also highly recommended to provide clarity in the statement.
Even if the relative pronoun or relative adverb from each clause has been omitted, it can still be classified as a relative clause due to its function in the sentence. You may also like compound sentence—usage and examples.
As previously mentioned, a relative clause may be used to tell us something more about a person or thing being referred to in the sentence. The relative clause may be categorized as a defining or non-defining relative clause, depending on how it is used in the sentence. You may also check out cumulative sentence examples.
We can also use quantifiers and numbers with relative pronouns. This can be used as a subject, object, or object of a preposition.
She has three brothers, two of whom are doctors.
Expressions such as many of whom, most of whom, one of which, none of whom, some of which, lots of whom, and two of which are also examples of quantifiers and numbers combined with relative pronouns to form a relative clause. You might be interested in parallel sentences—structure and examples.
Learning the purpose and proper use of clauses gives us the opportunity to enhance our way of writing in more ways than one. Instead of writing paragraphs upon paragraphs of short sentences, we can easily write a more detailed composition that accurately expresses our thoughts in such a way that readers may still comprehend.
Going beyond one’s expectations in writing by joining different types of clauses together can help us connect with readers in a more accurate and interesting manner.