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:
Basic relative pronouns
The relative pronoun you use depends on the thing you're talking about. Generally speaking, the most basic ones are these:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Subject and object relative pronouns
The use of who/which/that may depend on whether the pronoun is the subject or the object of the sentence. For example:
When the pronoun is the object it can be left out:
Links to exercises and pdf files
clauses gapfill exercise - online
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