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Lesson 2.6 Relative Clauses: Clauses that Modify Nouns

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Relative clauses are clauses (so they have a subject and a predicate) that give us more information about the noun.


Relatives clauses, bracketed below, follow the noun that they modify and are usually introduced by relative pronouns (that, who, which, when, where).           


            The store was out of those beans [that I like in my soup].            

                        relative clause modifies noun phrase those beans


            The girl [who I met last week] was at the game too.            

                        relative clause modifies the girl


            We’re having the fish [that we caught] for dinner.                        

                        relative clause modifies the fish


            That man [who is standing over there] is my uncle.                        

                        relative clause modifies that man


The relative pronouns, who, what, which, whose, as well as those sometimes called relative adverbs, like where and when, stand in for the noun that each is describing, as pronouns do. In the following example, who refers back to that man, but that man is not part of the relative clause itself. Instead, who functions as the subject of the clause, replacing, or referring back to, that man.

            That man [who is standing over there] is my uncle.           


And in this example who (or whom) refers back to the girl and functions as the direct object of the relative clause.


            The girl [who I met last week] was at the game too.


We use relative clauses naturally and easily in speech and writing, but sometimes we can use them in writing to combine information that could otherwise be expressed in two short separate sentences into a single, complex sentence:


          My friend tells a lot of jokes. He makes me laugh.


            My friend, who makes me laugh, tells a lot of jokes. 


Such combining of simple sentences can make your writing more interesting and more fluid. Combine the following simple sentences using relative clauses. What kinds of changes do you have to make?


            I like peanut butter. My dad bought some peanut butter yesterday.

            We drove to Yellowstone. We saw three bears in Yellowstone.

            My dog is a beagle. My dog’s name is Barney.



key words: relative clauses, relative pronouns, sentence combining


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.1i Produce simple, compound, and complex sentences. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.1a Use relative pronouns (who, whose, whom, which, that) and relative adverbs (where, when, why). 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.3a Expand, combine, and reduce sentences for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style. 


Here is this lesson as a pdf.




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