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Attributive Relative Limiting Particularizing Clauses

Attributive Relative Limiting Classifying Clauses

Attributive Relative Non-limiting Clauses

Attributive Relative Non-limiting Descriptive Clauses

Attributive Relative Non-limiting Continuative Clauses

The Chart

An attributive clause is a dependent clause that serves as attribute to a noun or pronoun in the main clause (with one exception to be pointed out below); the noun or pronoun thus qualified is termed the antecedent: • Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.


On the basis of their semantic and syntactic relationship with the antecedent, attributive clauses are divided into two major classes: appositive (or appositional) and relative clauses.

1.Attributive Appositive Clauses

AAC are also termed content clauses because they disclose the semantic content, or the meaning of the antecedent: • / agree with the old saying that fortune favours the brave.

Attributive appositive clauses are joined syndetically, by means of conjunction that, other subordinators (e. g. whether and why) are very rare.

Because an attributive appositive clause is closely connected with its antecedent, it is not set off by a comma in writing, nor is it pronounced as separate tone group in speaking.

The antecedent of an attributive appositive clause is most typically countable abstract noun:

Advice, belief, decision, demand, fact, hope, idea, opinion, promise, saying, suggestion.

• There was little hope that the climbers would be found alive.

Another group of frequently used antecedents to appositive clauses includes such uncountable abstract nouns as news, information and knowledge:

• Have you heard the news that the border has been closed?

The antecedents question and problem are followed by an AAC with the preposition of:

• The question of whether we should demand a payment for our services was not even discussed.

The use of a plural antecedent is rare:

• The colonel gave orders that he was not to be disturbed.

2.Attributive Relative Clauses

ARC are so called because they are joined with the help of relative pronouns or adverbs. Their function is to qualify the antecedent:

· The dean saw all the students who had received poor grades.

Attributive relative clauses are chiefly introduced with the help of subordinators who, whom, whose, that, which, whose, when, where, and why. They can also be joined asyndetically. Occasionally, we find attributive relative clauses joined by means of as and (such.. ) as:

• The question as it is put by the author admits of no real answer.

The ARC can be divided into two groups: limitingand non-limiting.

2.1Attributive Relative Limiting Clauses

ARLC are also called defining, restrictive, or essential. They limit the semantics of the antecedent; they are essential to the meaning and structure of the sentence and could not be eliminated:

• I can't stand people who are cruel to animals (But not (?) I can’t stand people).

Because ARLC are closely connected with the main clause, they are not set off by a comma in writing, nor are they pronounced as a separate lone group in speaking.

ARLC qualifying a personal antecedent are joined by means of the subordinators (relative pronouns) who, whom, whose, and that: He is the sort of man that/who never lies.

ARLC qualifying a non-personal antecedent are joined by means of the subordinators that, which, whose / of which, when, where: She retired to the town where she had spent her youth.

There are a few cases where that is preferred to which:

1) when the antecedent is an indefinite pronoun:

• The governor promised to do all that lay in his power to help the flood victims;

2) when the antecedent is qualified by an ordinal numeral:

• The 1st church that was built in the city became very popular;

3) when the antecedent is qualified by a superlative adjective:

• “Hamlet" is perhaps the most profound tragedy that has ever beenwritten in the English language;

4) when the limiting clause has a compound nominal predicate:

• 'Doom' is a computer game that has become popular all over the world.


2.1.1Attributive Relative Limiting Particularizing Clauses

ARLPC restrict the meaning of the antecedent by establishing a reference to a particular person or thing (or a particular group of persons or things). Their antecedent is accompanied by the particularizing definite article or the demonstrative pronoun that/those:

• The girl I told you about is my next door neighbour.

Occasionally, the antecedent is modified by the pronoun such, and the

2.1.2Attributive Relative Limiting Classifying Clauses

ARLCC restrict the meaning of the antecedent by establishing a reference to a certain class or category of persons or things. Their antecedent is accompanied by the classifying indefinite article (the zero article with non-count nouns or nouns in the plural) or an indefinite determiner (such as some, any, no): She lectured on a topic I know very little about.

ARLCC typically qualify pronouns; the meaning of nouns is rather vague and often needs to be limited in context: Is there anything / could do to help out?

2.2Attributive Relative Non-Limiting Clauses

ARNC are also called non-defining, non-restrictive or non-essential. They do not restrict the meaning of the antecedent; but provide some additional info about a person or thing denoted by the antecedent. They aren’t essential to the structure of the sentence and could be left out:

• In my class there are only advanced students, most of whom are from Eastern Europe.

Non-limiting clauses are loosely connected with the main clause; they are set off by commas (or sometimes by parentheses) in writing and pronounced as a separate tone group in speaking.

Non-limiting clauses are always joined syndetically, by means of relate pronouns and adverbs.

ARNC can be further subdivided into descriptive and continuative, depending on the structural type of the antecedent.

2.2.1Attributive Relative Non-Limiting Descriptive Clauses

ARNDC provide a description of the antecedent. An antecedent is a proper noun, a 'unique’ noun, or a noun (group) made definite by the context or situation:

• She introduced me to her husband, who struck me as a very shrewd man.

• The Mississippi River, which flows south from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, is the major commercial river in the US.

The use of the indefinite or zero article with the antecedent of a ARNDC is also possible:

• Rice, which is grown in many countries, is a staple food throve out much of the world.

The subordinator can be preceded by a quantifier or a superlative:

• / bought a dozen eggs, two of which were bad.

• I bought a dozen eggs, the smallest of which /of which the smallest was bad.

The importance of punctuating descriptive clauses can be illustrated by the following examples:

• (a) The hikers who knew about the avalanche took another road.

• (b) The hikers, who knew about the avalanche, took another road.

Sentence (a), which contains a ARLPC, implies that only some of the hikers took another road, but there were presumably others who did not.

Sentence (b), which contains a ARNDC, implies that all the hikers knew about the avalanche and therefore took another road.


2.2.2Attributive Relative Non-Limiting Continuative Clauses

The antecedent of the ARNCC is not just a noun or pronoun, but the whole main clause. They are added as an afterthought and continue, as it were, the idea expressed in the main clause:

• Julia refused, which was unwise (= 'and that was unwise').

Continuative clauses are joined syndetically, by means of the subordinator which.

Sometimes a continuative clause opens with a combination of a preposition, the pronoun which, and a noun like case or event, which is a very general word for a situation:

· I was reprimanded by the boss, at which point I gave her notice.

The following chart summarizes our outline of attributive clauses:

Attributive clauses


appositive relative


limiting non-limiting


particularizing classifying descriptive continuative

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 2275

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