Adjective Clauses - Restricted vs. Unrestricted

 

An adjective clause is used to modify nouns.  The pronouns that begin adjective clauses are relative pronouns such as that, which, who, whom, whose and where. 

 

You can reduce adjective clauses to adjective phrases if the subject relative pronoun is followed by the verb “be”.

 

For example:

The boy who is playing with my son is John.

=> The boy who is playing with my son is John. 

 

The flower which is planted by Mary is blossoming like crazy.

=> The flower which is planted by Mary is blossoming like crazy. 

To identify if an adjective clause is restricted or non-restricted, you can see if the basic meaning of the sentences will be changed by removing the adjective clause.   If the basic meaning changes, it is a restricted clause.

For example: 

(a) Employers who care for their employees have higher employee satisfaction.   (restricted clause)

Employers have higher employee satisfaction.   (the basic meaning is changed)

My brother-in-law who was awarded with a Nobel Prize is 19 years old.  (I have many brother-in-laws.  I am talking about the brother-in-law who was awarded with a Nobel Prize)

A restrictive adjective clause gives information that helps to uniquely identify the noun that it describes.

 (b) Reading books, which I often do, help to increase my knowledge. (unrestricted clause)

Reading books help to increase my knowledge.  (the basic meaning does not change)

My brother-in-law, who was awarded with a Nobel Prize, is 19 years old.  (I have only one brother-in-law and he is 19 years old.  By the way, he got a Nobel Prize. )

 

An unrestricted adjective clause adds extra information about the noun it modifies. This information is not necessary to identify the noun.

 

For more information, please see http://rwc.hunter.cuny.edu/reading-writing/on-line/relative_clauses.html

 

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