Unit 18: A nip and a tuck: cosmetic surgery
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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.
Defining and non-defining relative clauses
Callum and Catherine, who recorded the programme with Finn's help, explore the topic of relative clauses. Did you spot the relative clause in that introduction? Was it defining or non-defining?
Listen to the programme
Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Callum.
And me, Catherine. Hello.
In this programme, we’re talking about relative clauses.
Yes, relative clauses add information about the person or thing that you’re talking about. There are two kinds of relative clauses: defining and non-defining.
Let’s begin with defining relative clauses. Here’s Finn with an example:
The man whose phone I found gave me a reward.
Thanks Finn. The clause whose phone I found is a defining relative clause because it identifies which man Finn is talking about. If I ask the question ‘which man’ – the relative clause answers it: the man whose phone I found.
That's right. And relative clauses usually start with a relative pronoun. We use who for people, which for things, that for both people and things and whose where a possessive is needed. Let’s hear another defining relative clause:
I’ve lost the t-shirt that my mother gave me.
How careless of you Finn! Here, the relative clause that my mother gave me tells us which t-shirt Finn is talking about.
I’ve lost the t-shirt that my mother gave me.
Let’s move on to non-defining relative clauses. Here’s an example:
David’s mother, who was born in Mexico, is my sister’s Spanish teacher.
OK. The phrase who was born in Mexico is a non-defining relative clause. It doesn't answer the question ‘which mother?’ because David only has one mother! Instead, the relative clause gives us extra information about David’s mother: she was born in Mexico.
In fact, if we leave the relative clause out entirely, the sentence still makes sense:
David’s mother is my sister’s Spanish teacher.
Now let’s look again at relative pronouns. We can use them to refer to the subject or object of a clause. Finn, who is Daniel Radcliffe?
Daniel Radcliffe is the actor who plays Harry Potter.
In this sentence, the relative pronoun who refers to the subject – Daniel Radcliffe. Daniel Radcliffe plays Harry Potter.
And another question for you Finn. Which sport do you enjoy the most?
Well, football is the sport that I enjoy the most, Catherine.
This time, the pronoun that refers to the object. And you can usually leave out object pronouns, like this:
Football is the sport I enjoy the most.
You’re listening to bbclearningenglish.com.
For non-defining clauses, you can’t leave out the pronoun. Also, non-defining relative clauses can't begin with the word that. Use which instead, like this:
Last year I went to Paris, which is the capital of France.
The clause which is the capital of France – is giving us extra information. We can leave it out and still understand the sentence:
Last year I went to Paris.
And now it's time for a quiz. Join these sentences together using a defining or non-defining relative clause. Number one. The bus was very late. I took it this morning. The bus was very late. I took it this morning.
The bus that I took this morning was very late. Or you could also say: The bus I took this morning was very late.
You can, very good. Number two: My car needs repairing. I only bought it last month. My car needs repairing. I only bought it last month.
My car, which I only bought last month, needs repairing.
And that was a non-defining relative clause. Number three. David Beckham has over 20 tattoos. He used to play for Manchester United. David Beckham has over 20 tattoos. He used to play for Manchester United.
David Beckham, who used to play for Manchester United, has over 20 tattoos.
Right. And we could also say: David Beckham, who has over 20 tattoos, used to play for Manchester United.
And that’s the end of the quiz. Well done you got them all right. Now for a little tip. In written English, we put commas around non-defining relative clauses. In spoken English, we leave a small pause for each comma. Listen to this example:
My sister, who works in Nairobi, is a doctor.
The pauses tell us that this is a non-defining relative clause, which means Finn has only one sister, so he doesn’t need to define her.
My uncle who works in Athens is a dentist.
And this time, there’s no pause, which means it’s a defining relative clause. Finn is defining which uncle he is talking about, so he probably has more than one uncle.
Thanks Finn. So that’s defining and non-defining relative clauses. They start with a relative pronoun and give additional information about the person or thing that you’re talking about.
There’s more about this on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.
End of Session 2
That's all for this session. We hope you enjoyed it. Join us in Session 3 to read about the history of plastic surgery.
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 bikewasn'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.