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Relative clauses (Structure widely used in written descriptions)


1. A relative clause adds information about one of the nouns in the main clause. The relative clause comes immediately after the noun it relates to:

Mr McElroy, who lived in the big rambling house next to our Store, was very tall and broad.


2. A relative clause goes at the beginning of a relative clause:




“Who” and “Whom” are used for people. “Whom” is only used when the relative pronoun is the object of the relative clause:

He was a simple man who sold patent medicine.

The lawyer whom you requested is unavailable.



“Which” is used for things:

I enjoyed the book which you lent me.



“That” may often be used instead of “who”, “whom” or “which”:

I enjoyed the book that you lent me.



We use “Whose” in a relative clause to show who something belongs to. It may be used for people or things:

Mr McElroy, whose garden I enjoyed playing in, hardly ever spoke to me.

That’s the house whose garden is open to the public.

3. There are two main types of relative clauses:


1) Defining relative clauses.


The information in a defining relative clause is essential to the meaning of the main clause. If the defining relative clause is taken away, the meaning of the main clause is not clear:

He was the only Negro I knew who wore matching pants and jackets.

In defining relative clauses:

- you may leave out the relative pronoun if it is the object of the relative clause;

- you should not use commas to separate the relative clause from the rest of the sentence.


2) Non- defining relative clauses.

The information in a non-defining relative clause is extra. If the non-defining relative is taken away, the meaning of the main clause is still clear:

Mr McElroy, who lived in the big rambling house next to our Store, was very tall and broad.

In non-defining relative clauses:

- you must not leave out the relative pronoun, even if it is the object of the clause;

- you must not use the relative pronoun “that”;

- you must use a comma or commas to separate the clause from the rest of the sentence.


4. Rewrite the following sentences as one sentence, using relative clauses, and making any other necessary changes.


1. My aunt was an adult. She impressed me a lot as a child.

2. She had a short plump figure. Her figure made it difficult to find attractive clothes.

3. In spite of this, she had a large wardrobe. I was allowed to help her select something colourful from her wardrobe. She would brighten up the dark day with something colourful.

4. She had two habits. These two habits fascinated me and worried my mother.

5. Hanging from her mouth she kept a lighted cigarette. Her mouth was generously painted bright red or orange. The cigarette was never removed to embrace a child or to talk.

6. She was a great talker. Her favourite subject was the lives and loves of friends, relatives and neighbours.

7. She recounted scandals to my mother. My mother tried to change the subject if she saw me listening.



Write paragraphs (using relative clauses) on the following topics:


  1. Describe your own character. At least one of the adjectives must be negative.
  2. Describe a person from your childhood who you remember well.
  3. Describe the personality of somebody you look up to.


Topic sentence:

- relationship to you (where or how you knew the person)

Supporting sentences (select some of your impressions):

- occupation

- appearance: age, attractiveness, some special features

- clothes: person’s usual style

- behaviour: voice, smile, walk, gestures

- character: positive / negative aspects

Concluding sentence:

- summarize what knowing this person meant for you.


Note: Describing a person, you must decide on the overall impression. Select the most obvious personality traits of an individual for your description and arrange them in a logical order.




Date: 2014-12-29; view: 1052

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