The Relative Clause

Recognize a relativeclause when you see one.

A relative clause--also called an adjective or adjectival clause--will meet three requirements. First, it will contain a subject and verb. Next, it will begin with a relative pronoun [who, whom, whose, that, or which] or a relative adverb [when, where, or why]. Finally, it will function as an adjective, answering the questions What kind? How many? or Which one? The relative clause will follow one of these two patterns:

Relative Pronoun [or Relative Adverb] + Subject + Verb = Incomplete Thought

Relative Pronoun [Functioning as Subject] + Verb = Incomplete Thought

Here are some examples:

Which Francine did not accept

Which = relative pronoun | Francine = subject | did accept = verb [not, an adverb, is not officially part of the verb]

Where George found Amazing Spider-Man #96 in fair condition

Where = relative adverb | George = subject | found = verb

That dangled from the one clean towel hanging in the bathroom

That = relative pronoun functioning as subject | dangled = verb 

Who continued to play video games until his eyes were blurry with fatigue 

Who = relative pronoun functioning as subject | played = verb 

Avoid creating a sentence fragment. 

A relative clause does not express a complete thought, so it cannot stand alone as a sentence.To avoid writing a fragment, you must connect each relative clause to a main clause. Read the examples below. Notice that the relative clause follows the word that it describes.

To calm his angry girlfriend, Joey offered an apology which Francine did not accept. 

We tried our luck at the same flea market where George found Amazing Spider-Man #96 in fair condition. 

Michelle screamed when she saw the spider that dangled from the one clean towel hanging in the bathroom. 

Brian said goodnight to his roommate Justin, who continued to play video games until his eyes were blurry with fatigue.

Punctuate a relative clause correctly. 

Punctuating relative clauses can be tricky. For each sentence, you will have to decide if the relative clause is essential or nonessential and then use commas accordingly. 

Essential clauses do not require commas. A relative clause is essential when you need the information it provides. Look at this example: 

The children who skateboard in the street are especially noisy in the early evening. 

Children is nonspecific. To know which ones we are talking about, we must have the information in the relative clause. Thus, the relative clause is essential and requires no commas.

If, however, we eliminate children and choose more specific nouns instead, the relative clause becomes nonessential and does require commas to separate it from the rest of the sentence. Read this revision: 

Matthew and his sister Loretta, who skateboard in the street, are especially noisy in the early evening. 

Relative clause ใช้เพื่อเพิ่มความเข้าใจ มีสองแบบแบบแรกเป็นการอธิบายที่จำเป็นต่อการเข้าใจประโยคนั้น เรียกDefining relative clause เช่น The man who is living on the corner of Soi 45 has gone on vacation. ขาด who is living on the corner of Soi 45 ไม่ได้ เพราะทำให้ไม่รู้ว่าพูดถึงใคร ถ้าขาด defining relative clause ก็เป็น The man has gone on vacation. ไม่รู้ว่าชายคนไหน ในclause แบบนี้อาจตัดrelative pronoun (คำว่า who is) ออกได้เป็น The man living on the corner of Soi 45 has gone on vacation. ก็ยังถูกไวยากรณ์ นอกจากนั้นแล้วไม่ต้องใช้ comma คล่อมclause

แบบที่สองเป็นclause เพิ่มข้อความที่น่าสนใจแต่ไม่จำเป็นแก่ประโยค เรียกNon-defining relative clause เช่น Mr. Ohio, who is very inquisitive, is a frequent visitor to Vicharkar.com. ในที่นี้ who is very inquisitive ไม่มีความจำเป็นต่อความเข้าใจแต่ทำให้ใจความน่าสนใจขึ้น แบบนี้ตัดrelative pronoun (who is) ออกไม่ได้ถ้าจะยังคงจะใช้clause แต่ตัดออกทั้งclause ได้ เช่น Mr. Ohio is a frequent visitor to Vicharkar.com. อ่านแล้วเข้าใจดีเพียงแต่ขาดข้อความที่น่าสนใจหน่อย (inquisitive) ถ้าใช้ Non-defining relative clause ที่อยู่กลางประโยคจะต้องใส่ไว้ระหว่าง comma ถ้า Non-defining relative clause อยู่ท้ายประโยคต้องนำด้วย comma เช่น I gave money to an old friend, who was in much need.

Grammar notes: relative clauses


A relative clause is a part of a sentence beginning with a relative pronoun (although this pronoun can be omitted in certain cases). For example:

The school where I taught is called Alboraya English Centre.
The man who went into the baker's bought a loaf of bread.
My sister, who lives near London, is coming to visit me soon.

Basic relative pronouns

The relative pronoun you use depends on the thing you're talking about. Generally speaking, the most basic ones are these:

for people


for things


for places


for reasons


for times


Who, which and that cannot be used indiscriminately. That can only be used in defining relative clauses.

Trickier relative pronouns

Four relative pronouns often seem to confuse people, but they're easy to use too.


This can be used to refer to the whole part of the sentence that went before. Usually a pronoun refers to a noun, but this refers to more. For example:

I've broken my leg, which means I can't walk.
I've still got some money left, which is surprising.


This is hardly ever used in spoken English, and not often in written English. It sounds very formal to most people. If you're going to use it at all, then only use it after prepositions. Even so, there's usually another less formal way to say the same thing. For example:

The woman to whom he was talking is his sister.
The woman that he was talking to is his sister.


This is used to show possession. It means basically 'of who(m)'. It can always be used for people and animals, but also for things, though this sometimes sounds strange and it might be better to change the structure of the sentence unless the thing is made up of people (a team, a city, an organisation). For example:

My students, whose homework is never done, will fail the exam.
The homework belongs to the students, it's theirs, so possessive.

That dog whose bone you took is going to bite your leg off.
It is - or was - the dog's bone.

The city, whose football team lost the final, never wins anything.
The city's made up of people, so it sounds OK.


This can be literally translated to mean 'the thing that' or 'that which'. It is not used anywhere near as often as 'which' or 'that' and is not used in the same way. For example:

A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
I didn't know what he was going to do next.

Non-defining relative clauses

These are the ones that give extra information. They are always written between commas. If you leave out the relative clause between the commas it still makes sense. For example:

Valencia, which is Spain's third largest city, is on the Mediterranean coast.
We all know Valencia, so this is extra information not needed for understanding.

My parents, who are retired, come to Spain every year.
I've only got one set of parents.

I used to live in London, where I was born and went to school.

Defining relative clauses

These are the ones that give you the information you need to understand the sentence. There are no commas. If you take the relative clause away, the sentence doesn't make sense. For example:

The team that wins will receive a cup and 1,000 .
What team?

The man who lives next door is always making a noise.
What man?

Has he told you what he's going to do?
Has he told me what?

Subject and object pronouns

The use of who/which/that may depend on whether the pronoun is the subject or the object of the sentence. For example:

The man who spoke to me told me the story of his life.
He spoke to me, so 'who' is the subject and 'me' is the object.

The man that I spoke to told me the story of his life.
I spoke to him, so 'I' is the subject and 'that' is the object.

When the pronoun is the object it can be left out:

The man I spoke to told me the story of his life.