课程 2

This session is all about clauses which give information about nouns. That was one, just there. You'll learn about defining and non-defining relative clauses and the relative pronouns we use with them.

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练习题 1

Relative clauses

What is a relative clause?

A relative clause is part of a sentence. It gives information about which person or thing we are talking about.

Look at this example without a relative clause:

The flight was cancelled. We were going to take it.

We can make these two sentences into one by using a relative clause.

The flight that we were going to take was cancelled.

The relative clause tells us which flight was cancelled. 

This type of relative clause defines the noun it is talking about. it is called a defining relative clause. 

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Another kind of relative clause

Let's look at a different example. First, without a relative clause.

Our flight was cancelled. It was one of several going to Rome that day.

Now let's look at that with a relative clause.

Our flight, which was one of several going to Rome that day, was cancelled.


Does the meaning of the sentence change if we leave out the relative clause?

Our flight was cancelled.

No, the meaning is the same. 


Which flight are we talking about?

Our flight.

So, does the relative clause define which flight we are talking about? 

No, it doesn't. 

What is this kind of relative clause for?

It gives us more information, but that information is not essential to understanding what we are talking about. It's called a non-defining relative clause.

Spotting a non-defining relative clause

In written English there is a comma at the beginning and end of a non-defining relative clause.

Our flight, which was one of several going to Rome that day, was cancelled.

In spoken English there will be a slight pause before and after the non-defining relative clause.

Relative pronouns

Let's look at the first example again.

The flight was cancelled. We were going to take it.

In the first sentence there is the pronoun it. In the sentence with the relative clause, it has been replaced by a relative pronoun, that.

The flight that we were going to take was cancelled.

The position of the relative pronoun is after the noun to which it refers.

Subject or object pronoun?

When the relative pronoun refers to the object of the verb we can leave it out.

Let's look once again at the first example:

The flight was cancelled. We were going to take it.

The pronoun it refers to the flight. The flight is the object of the verb take. In the sentence with the relative clause we can therefore leave out the relative pronoun.

The flight (that) we were going to take was cancelled.

There are different relative pronouns depending on whether we are talking about people, things, places, possessions or times.

who / that 
are used for people:

The man who came to the door was collecting for charity.
The lady (that) I saw in the shop wasn't Julia Roberts after all.

whose is used for possessives:

The dog whose collar we found lives across the street.
The man whose wallet I found gave me a reward.

that / which 
are used for things:

I don't like films that are really scary.
I want to see something on the news which doesn't make me sad or angry.

where 
is used for places:

Do the you remember the place (where) we first met?
I want to go to a place where I've never been.

when is used for times

I can remember a time (when) there was no email or internet.
Do you think there'll be a day this summer (when) it doesn't rain?

To do

Do you think you can spot the difference between a defining and non-defining realitve clause? Try the quiz to find out.

Defining or non-defining?

5 Questions

Read each sentence and decide whether it contains a defining or non-defining relative clause.

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Defining or non-defining?

5 Questions

Read each sentence and decide whether it contains a defining or non-defining relative clause.

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Excellent! 太棒了! Bad luck! 加分:
x / y

本课语法

  • Defining relative clauses

    These relative clauses give the information that directly identifies what is being talked about.

    The house that we were thinking of buying has been sold.
    We need to fix the window that I broke.
    The girl who was hit by the bike wasn't seriously hurt.

    Without the relative clause the sentences wouldn't be complete and we wouldn't know what was being talked about.

    Non-defining relative clauses

    These relative clauses, which add more information about nouns, do not identify the noun being talked about. 

    My car, which I've had since I was a teenager, was stolen last night. 
    She gave me her number, which I wrote on a piece of paper.
    His dad, who is 78, goes for a 5 mile walk everyday.

    Without the relative clause the sentences are still complete and we know what is being talked about.