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Session 2

In Session 1, you learned about the people and stories behind some of London’s famous Blue Plaques. In this session, we will focus on adding important, additional information to sentences using relative clauses. We will look at the use and structure of these clauses and do some practice activities.

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Defining relative clauses

This is a Unit which focuses a lot on relative clauses. By now you are people who have probably read a lot about relative clauses! Time to take a break from the reading - listen to Finn, Alice and Catherine in 6 Minute Grammar. They will help you put all this relative clause information in order.

Listen to the programme and see if you can work out the connection with this picture of shoes.

Listen to the audio

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Finn   
Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Finn.

Alice
And me, Alice. Hello.

Finn
Today we're talking about defining relative clauses.

Alice
That's right: defining relative clauses. We'll explain what they are...

Finn
We'll look at how they work...

Alice
We'll hear lots of examples...

Finn
And we'll have a quiz to practice what we've learned. So: on with the show. Let's start by looking at what relative clauses are, and how we make them.

Alice
Yes. Defining relative clauses give information about a noun in a sentence or question. They define - or, give more information about - the thing that we are talking about. Here's Catherine with our first example:

Catherine
Have you seen the shoes that I bought today?

Finn
The defining relative clause is the phrase that I bought today - and it tells us which shoes Catherine is talking about.

Alice
That's right. Catherine probably has several pairs of shoes: adding the phrase that I bought today tells us exactly which shoes she means.

Finn
So: let's have a closer look at the grammar of relative clauses. We start with a noun and then we add a relative pronoun, such as who or that, plus a verb phrase. The relative pronoun who is for people... Catherine.

Catherine
The man who owns this restaurant is my best friend.

Alice
So the defining relative clause who owns this restaurant tells us exactly which man is Catherine's best friend.

Finn
The pronoun which is for things, and we use that for both people and things. Here's an example with which.

Catherine
Spring is the season which I enjoy the most.

Finn
Ahh - me too! So, to give more information about a thing - the season - we add the relative pronoun - which, plus the verb phrase I enjoy the most.

Alice
Here's another example.

Catherine
That woman is the doctor who saw me yesterday.

Finn
This time, the pronoun who refers to the doctor. And the doctor is the subject of the verb saw - the doctor saw Catherine.

Alice
Right. Who refers to the subject of the verb: The doctor who saw me yesterday. Now this next example is slightly different: listen carefully.

Catherine
That woman is the doctor who I saw yesterday.

Alice
Again, who refers to the doctor. But this time, the doctor is the object of the verb saw - Catherine saw the doctor.

Finn
So the rule is: when the pronoun refers to the subject, it's:

Catherine
She's the doctor who saw me yesterday.

Alice
And when the pronoun refers to the object, it's:

Catherine
She's the doctor who I saw yesterday.

Alice
Now some people like to use whom instead of who in object relative clauses:

Catherine
...the doctor whom I saw...

Alice
And that's fine. Whom is correct here.

Finn
Although who is probably more common in spoken English these days.

IDENT          
You're listening to BBC Learning English.

Alice
And we're talking about defining relative clauses.

Finn
And now it's quiz time. They're all about Harry Potter, these questions. So if you like the film it may be easier for you... I'll say some key words and you have to make them into a sentence with a defining relative clause. Here's the first one. Robbie Coltrane - actor - play - Hagrid.

Alice
Robbie Coltrane is the actor who played Hagrid... in Harry Potter.

Finn
And another one: Hogwarts - school - Harry Potter - go.

Alice
Hogwarts is the school that Harry Potter went to.

Finn
Very good. Last one: Hermione - marry - Ron Weasley.

Alice
Ooh. Hermione is the girl who married Ron Weasley.

Finn
Or as an object clause it's:

Alice
Hermione is the girl who Ron Weasley married.

Finn
Well done if you got those right. Now before we finish, there's just time to mention that, in everyday English, it's fine to leave out the pronoun completely when the relative pronoun is the object of the relative clause.

Alice
For example: Hermione is the girl who Ron Weasley married becomes:

Finn
Hermione is the girl Ron Weasley married.

Alice
Ahhh. Don't you think she should have married Harry?

Finn
Well, I really think its Hermione's choice, Alice.

Alice
Fair enough.

Finn
So, that's the end of our brief look at defining relative clauses. They begin with a pronoun and go after the noun that you want to define.

Alice
Yes. There's more about this on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.

Both
Bye.

Did you work out the connection? Catherine was talking about a pair of shoes that she bought!

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End of Session 2

We hope Session 2 helped you understand more about the use, meaning and structure of relative clauses. We will put this knowledge into practice in Session 3 when we take a closer look at Handel House, which is the museum in Handel's former London home, and learn more about rock music legend Jimi Hendrix.

Session Grammar

  • Defining relative clauses give us important information about the personthing or place that we are talking about.

    We use the following relative pronouns:

    who for people

    that and which for things

    where for places

    The police officer arrested the man who robbed the bank.

    These are the shoes that I bought in Tokyo.

    Summer is the season which I enjoy the most.

    David visited the place where we first met.