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Relative Clauses May Be About Uncles And Aunts

Whether we realize it or not, we all use relative clauses in our grammar. The main use of the relative clause is that it tells us which person or thing we are referring to, in a sentence.

A relative clause is easy to recognize because we use one of these four “W” words: who, whom, whose, or which. The first three obviously refer to a person and the fourth refers to a thing, such as a hat or a car or a computer. In the case of “which,” you may also use the “T” word “that.”

The reason I brought up the use of the relative clause is that when we write newspaper stories, we sometimes break the rule of the four “W” words and the “T” word.

I saw an unanswered question at the englishforums site, in which the writer asked if this should still be called a relative clause.

The house, built in 1880, is now worth $1 million.

This sentence doesn’t use  who, whom, whose, which or that, but obviously, it is still a relative clause. When we write in English, there are times we can drop words, yet the sentence still makes sense. The missing words in this sentence are “which was.” Including the missing words, the sentence looks like this:

The house, which was built in 1880, is now worth $1 million.

You can see that the rule still works, even though the sentence was missing the word that tips us off to the relative nature of the sentence.

This is the point at which I would show some examples, but after I wrote this, I discovered a nice reference to this subject, in the San Fransisco English Language School blog:

Writing Essentials: Relative Clauses – EC English

Defining Relative Clauses. Take a look at the following sentences:


One of the things I often do, when editing a story, is to simplify sentences. Quite often I will remove “which was,” because it doesn’t add anything to the story, other than two additional words. That is a story for another time.


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