Adjective Clause: Definition and Examples

Adjective clauses are an essential component of English grammar that can add detail and specificity to your writing. By modifying nouns and pronouns, adjective clauses provide additional information that can help readers better understand the subject of a sentence.

In this article, we’ll explore the basics of adjective clauses, including their structure, function, and common usage. This article will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to master adjective clauses and take your writing to the next level.

Understanding Adjective Clause

Adjective Clauses Pin

What Is an Adjective Clause?

To understand what an adjective clause is, we need to define the two words separately.

An adjective is a word that tells more information about a noun. A clause is a multi-word that features a subject and a verb. A sentence is considered complete if the clause expresses a complete thought. If it doesn’t, then it is referred to as dependent a clause because it depends on the main clause of the sentence to express a complete thought.

In other words, an adjective clause is a multi-word that contains a subject and a verb that tells more information about a noun in a sentence. Adjective clauses depend on other clauses in a sentence to express a complete thought, and that’s why they are referred to as dependent clauses.

Typically, an adjective clause follows one of these patterns:

  1. Relative pronoun/adverb + subject + verb: For example, “The book that Jane bought is a mystery novel.” In this sentence, “that Jane bought” is the adjective clause modifying the noun “book.”
  2. Relative pronoun (as subject) + verb: For example, “The cupcakes which are homemade taste delicious.” Here, “which are homemade” is the adjective clause modifying the noun “cupcakes.”

Relative Pronouns in Adjective Clauses

All adjective clauses begin with a relative pronoun. Some of the most used relative pronouns include: who, whose, which, whoever, whomever, that, and where.

Relative pronouns mark the beginning of an adjective clause in a sentence. Here, the most important thing is to spot a relative pronoun because adjective clauses follow them. They function as actual subjects and at times the objects in the adjective clauses.

Examples of adjective clauses in a sentence include:

  • People who are true patriots love their country unconditionally.
  • I can recall the time when there were no mobile phones.
  • Jason has a relative whose daughter pursues a career in nursing.
  • Dancing, which many people love, is tiresome.
  • The reason why David skips mathematics lessons is that he doesn’t love the subject.
  • The reason why Nicolas prefers to watch football matches is that he doesn’t like to watch basketball.
  • Weddings, which are hosted in secluded areas, are very jovial.

Note that all the adjective clauses in the above examples begin with a relative pronoun. This links them to the nouns being modified, which comes at the start followed by a relative pronoun in the sentence.

Each of the adjective clauses in the above examples has a subject and a verb, and the two work together to modify the original noun. For instance, the clause which many people love has the subject “people” and the verb “love,” yet it is not a complete sentence by itself. Instead, its primary function is to give more information about the noun “dancing.”

There are some cases where the relative pronoun acts as a subject of the clause. In the adjective clause who are true patriots, “who” is the relative pronoun and at the same time functions as the subject that is patriots.

Types of Adjective Clauses

Essential Adjective Clauses

Essential adjective clauses, or restrictive clauses, are clauses that contain information that when removed the sentence ceases to hold the same meaning. An example of this might be:

  • I don’t like people who drink soda without a straw.

Here the adjective clause gives vital information to describe the people. If you can remove the adjective clause, then the remaining sentence would state “I don’t like people” which is different from not liking people who drink soda without a straw. An essential adjective clause can do without any additional clause.

Non-essential Adjective Clauses

A non-essential adjective clause, or a non-restrictive clause, is a clause that gives an additional description that does not necessarily need to understand the intentions of the writer. The following is an example:

  • The boy, who had been abandoned by his parents, finally found a foster home.

Here the adjective clause gives additional information, but it is not necessarily important to get the essence of the sentence about the boy finding a home.

Unlike essential adjective clauses that are not set off with commas, non-essential adjective clauses are set off with commas to signify that they are partially connected to the other parts of the sentence.

The addition of adjective clauses to your writing is an effective way of providing extra information about the pronouns and nouns in your writing. The additional description is meant to enhance your writing and help the readers quickly grasp the message you are trying to pass.

When informed about the relative pronouns and how to differentiate essential clauses from non-essential clauses, you will find it easy to identify adjective clauses and punctuate them appropriately in your writing. You should also be in a position to differentiate between dependent and independent adjective clauses.

Formation of Adjective Clauses

An adjective clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adjective, modifying a noun or pronoun. They generally consist of a relative pronoun (such as who, which, or that), a subject, and a verb. To create an adjective clause, follow these basic steps:

  1. Identify the noun or pronoun to be modified and determine the additional information required.
  2. Choose the appropriate relative pronoun or relative adverb.
  3. Formulate the subject and the verb according to the context.
  4. Place the adjective clause immediately after the noun or pronoun it modifies.

Here are some examples of adjective clauses:

  • The book that she read was interesting.
  • People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
  • She gave a gift to the teacher whose classes she enjoyed.

In the examples above, the adjective clauses are in bold. Notice that they begin with a relative pronoun (that, who, or whose), include a subject and a verb, and provide additional information about the noun or pronoun they modify.

It’s important to know the different types of relative pronouns and when to use them:

  • Who: Used for people, and sometimes animals with a personal name (e.g., pets).
  • Whom: Used for people in the object position.
  • Whose: Used for people and animals to show possession.
  • Which: Used for things or animals without a personal name.
  • That: Used for people and things, often interchangeable with “who” and “which.”

To make your writing more concise, you can simplify the adjective clause by removing the subject and the relative pronoun while retaining the same meaning:

  • The book that she read → The book read by her.
  • People who live in glass houses → People living in glass houses.

Common Errors in Adjective Clauses

Incorrect Relative Pronoun

Selecting the correct relative pronoun to start an adjective clause is crucial. The choice should match the noun it is modifying, whether it is a person, thing, or place. For example, use “who” or “whom” for people, “which” for things, and “where” for places.

Misusing Commas

The placement of commas in adjective clauses can be challenging. If the adjective clause provides essential information to identify the noun, do not use commas. However, if the clause adds extra or non-essential information, surrounding it with commas is necessary. Pay close attention to the context when deciding on comma usage.

Incomplete Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses must contain a subject and a verb, offering more information about the noun or pronoun it modifies. Ensure that your adjective clause is complete and properly connected to the main clause to avoid confusion and maintain sentence structure.

Overusing Adjective Clauses

Although adjective clauses can help in creating descriptive and detailed expressions, overusing them can result in long and convoluted sentences. It is important to maintain a balance between using single-word adjectives and adjective clauses to keep your writing clear and concise.

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Essential and Non-essential Adjective Clauses Pin

Frequently Asked Questions

How can adjective clauses be identified in a sentence?

Adjective clauses can be identified by their relative pronouns (such as who, whom, whose, which, and that) and by the fact that they provide additional information about a noun or pronoun in the sentence. They generally come after the noun or pronoun they modify and contain a subject and a verb.

What is the difference between an adjective clause and an adjective phrase?

An adjective clause is a dependent clause containing a subject and a verb, while an adjective phrase is a group of words without a subject or a verb that function as an adjective. For example:

  • Adjective clause: The cake that Mary baked is delicious.
  • Adjective phrase: The delicious cake is from the bakery.

To transform an adjective clause into an adjective phrase, simplify the clause by removing the subject and the verb. Here is an example:

  • Adjective clause: The dog that is running is my pet.
  • Adjective phrase: The running dog is my pet.

In this case, the subject “that” and the verb “is running” were removed and replaced with the adjective “running.”

What are some key differences between adjective clauses and adverb clauses?

Adjective clauses provide additional information about a noun or pronoun, while adverb clauses provide additional information about a verb, an adjective, or an adverb. Adjective clauses are introduced by relative pronouns, whereas adverb clauses are introduced by subordinating conjunctions such as after, since, before, although, and because. Here is an example to demonstrate the difference:

  • Adjective clause: The movie which we watched was great.
  • Adverb clause: We enjoyed the movie because it had an interesting plot.

In the first sentence, the adjective clause describes the movie, while in the second sentence, the adverb clause describes the reason for enjoying the movie.

4 thoughts on “Adjective Clause: Definition and Examples”

  1. Thank you so much!
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