Adjective Clauses /Relative pronoun

Adjective Clauses

First, let’s remember that adjectives modify (or describe) nouns and pronouns.

Example:

Intelligent students understand adjectives.

(The word “intelligent” is an adjective because it describes the noun “students.”)

But adjectives are not always single words. Sometimes they are clauses:

Example:

Students who are intelligent understand adjectives.

(The adjective clause is underlined. It is an “adjective” clause because it describes the noun “students.”)

Remember

A clause is a group of related words with a subject and verb.

Remember

Adjective clauses are always dependent clauses.

Adjective clauses, like adverb clauses, are introduced by dependent signals.

If you want to be considered cool and impress members of the opposite sex, remember this:

Subordinating conjunctions introduce adverb clauses and relative pronouns introduce adjective clauses.

OK, OK, so that won’t impress most members of the opposite sex—only English majors.

If you happen to be in love with a botanist, a cocktail waitress or a rock singer, it will be OK just to remember this:

Adverb and adjective clauses are both introduced by dependent signals, but those signals are different.

And now the good news (finally!). . .

There are only five words which introduce adjective clauses.

They are called relative pronouns because they relate the clause to something in the sentence.

If you find yourself not caring a hoot in a far country about that, just remember that there are only five dependent signals which introduce adjective clauses. They are:

Who

Whom

Whose

Which

That

A Word of Caution:

Sometimes these words function as dependent signals, but sometimes they don’t.
Example:
How did you come up with that?

(“That” doesn’t introduce a clause. It identifies something. If you really want to know, it is a demonstrative pronoun. But don’t worry your noggin about that now. Just be aware that these dependent signals can sometimes do other things.)

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

I love sentences which extol the virtues of English teachers.

(The adjective clause is underlined. It modifies the object “sentences.”)

Students whom I admire want to become English teachers.

(Again, the adjective clause is underlined and modifies the subject “students.”)

Remember

A noun is a subject or an object, so adjectives will always modify subjects or objects.

Let’s look at these sentences a little more closely.

I love sentences which extol the virtues of English teachers.

(The verb of this clause is “extol.” The subject is “which” because it stands for “sentences.”)

Students whom I admire want to become English teachers.

(The verb of this clause is “admire.” The subject of the clause is “whom” because it stands for “students.”)

If you are well fed, well rested, and psychologically at peace with yourself, you have no doubt come to an astonishing realization.

Dependent signals which introduce adjective clauses perform a double duty. They introduce the clause and they also function inside the clause as a subject or object.

Therefore, I call these little devils (sorry, I mean these relative pronouns), double duty dependent signals.

Again, the double duty dependent signals which introduce adjective clauses are:

Who

Whom

Whose

Which

That

But what about these examples?

The grade I received was a shock.

(We don’t see any dependent signal do we? But we know we have two clauses because we have two subject-verb combinations—”grade/was,” “I/received.”)

The book I borrowed was full of grammatical wisdom.

(No dependent signal here either. But we have two subject verb combinations—”book/was” and “I/borrowed”—so we know we have two clauses.)

Look at them now:

The grade [that] I received was a shock.

The book [that] I borrowed was full of grammatical wisdom.

(Here’s the point. Sometimes the dependent signal [usually “that”] is implied. Mentally insert it, and the sentence will be easier to analyze.)

There’s only one more thing about adjective clauses that you need to know. It’s something you’ve never, ever understood, and I’m going to explain it so that you’ll never, ever forget it. (So try to contain your joy!)

Some adjective clauses need to be set off by commas and others don’t.

Now here’s the part you’ve never understood—non-restrictive clauses need commas and restrictive clauses don’t.

“What in the Sam Hill is the difference?” you say.

It is this:

Some adjective clauses are like gossip, they provide additional detail about someone (or something) whose identity we already know. Put commas around those.

Examples:

My English teacher, who wears old fashioned ties, is laughed at by the students.

(The adjective clause is underlined. It doesn’t identify the English teacher; it just provides a gossipy sort of detail about him. Set these off with commas.)

My English book, which is a monument of boredom, is used mainly as a door stop.

(Once again, the adjective clause is underlined. It doesn’t identify the English book, it just provides a gossipy, editorial comment about it. Set this clause off with a comma.)

Now take a look at these:

The English teachers that I like best forget to go to class.

(This isn’t pure gossip any longer. The writer doesn’t like all English teachers equally well. The adjective clause identifies which ones he likes best. Because it helps identify, don’t set if off with commas. )

Anyone who reads all of this will go away happier and wiser.

(Once again, this clause identifies who will go away happier and wiser. It’s not gossip, it’s essential information, so don’t put commas around it.)

1. Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses are also called relative clauses. They come after nouns and modify them. In other words, they tell the listener or reader more about the person or thing that the noun refer to. The pronouns that often begin adjective clauses are called relative pronouns ( that, which, who, whom, whose, where) For example:
A person who sweeps the floor on buildings is known as janitor.
A person who sails is a sailor.
The man who sold the red house is a friend of mine.

2. Reducing Adjective Clauses to Adjective Phrases

If the subject relative pronoun is followed by the verb be in any tense, both the relative pronoun and the verb be can be omitted. For example:
The realtor who is selling the house is Ann.–> The realtor who is selling the house is Ann.
The garment that is worn by priests is usually white.-> The garment that is worn by priests is usually white.

3. Relative pronouns as objects

The object relative pronouns for people are who, whom, that. Whom is more formal than who. The object relative pronouns for things are which, that. For example:
The candidate who more votes gets become the president.
The first time that I voted was in 1982.
You may omit the relative pronoun in restricted adjective clauses. For example:
The first time I voted was in 1982.

4. Restricted/Nonrestricted Relative Clauses

The two main types of adjective clauses–restrictive and nonrestrictive– have distinct meanings and uses.
A restrictive adjective clause gives information that helps to uniquely identify the noun that it describes. For example:
My sister who attends KU is very shy. (I have two sisters. one attends KU , the other doesn’t)

A Nonrestrictive adjective clause, on the other hand, adds extra information about the noun it modifies. This information is not necessary to identify the noun. For example:
Mary, who attends KU, is very shy.

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