Adjective Clause: Definition and Usage in English Grammar

What is an adjective clause? The article explains what adjective clauses are and how they function in a sentence, including the types of pronouns and relative pronouns that can be used to introduce them. It also provides examples of how adjective clauses are used in both written and spoken English.

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What Is An Adjective Clause?

An adjective clause is a type of dependent clause that functions as an adjective in a sentence. It provides additional information about a noun or pronoun, such as describing its characteristics, qualities, or attributes. An adjective clause always contains a subject and a verb, but it cannot stand alone as a complete sentence.

Adjective clauses are introduced by relative pronouns or relative adverbs, which help to connect them to the noun or pronoun they are modifying. Some common relative pronouns include “that,” “which,” “who,” “whom,” and “whose.” Relative adverbs such as “where,” “when,” and “why” can also be used to introduce adjective clauses, but they are less common.

Adjective clauses can be essential or non-essential to the sentence. Essential adjective clauses provide the necessary information that is required to identify the noun or pronoun they are modifying. Non-essential adjective clauses, on the other hand, provide additional information that is not necessary for identifying the noun or pronoun.

Here are some examples of adjective clauses in sentences:

  • The book that I borrowed from the library is due next week. (essential)
  • My sister, who is a doctor, will be visiting us next month. (non-essential)
  • The car, which was parked in the driveway, was damaged in the storm. (non-essential)

Components of an Adjective Clause

An adjective clause, also known as a relative clause, is a dependent clause that modifies a noun or pronoun. It is a group of words consisting of a subject and a verb and is introduced by a relative pronoun or a relative adverb. Here are the three components of an adjective clause:

Relative Pronouns

A relative pronoun is a word that connects the adjective clause to the noun it is modifying. The most common relative pronouns are “that,” “which,” and “who.” Here are some examples:

  • The book that I read was very interesting.
  • The car which I bought last year is now in the garage.
  • The woman who is standing over there is my neighbor.

Relative Adverbs

A relative adverb is a word that connects the adjective clause to the noun it is modifying and provides information about time, place, or reason. The most common relative adverbs are “when,” “where,” and “why.” Here are some examples:

  • The day when I met him was unforgettable.
  • The place where we spent our vacation was beautiful.
  • The reason why I am late is because of the traffic.

Commas

Commas are used to separate the adjective clause from the rest of the sentence. The use of commas depends on whether the information provided by the adjective clause is essential or non-essential. If the information is essential, no commas are used. If the information is non-essential, commas are used. Here are some examples:

  • Essential: The man who is wearing a blue shirt is my boss.
  • Non-essential: John, who is my neighbor, is a doctor.

Types of Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses are dependent clauses that modify a noun or pronoun in a sentence. They provide additional information about the noun or pronoun they are modifying. There are two types of adjective clauses: restrictive and nonrestrictive.

Restrictive Adjective Clauses

Restrictive adjective clauses, also known as essential adjective clauses, are dependent clauses that provide essential or defining information about the noun or pronoun they are modifying. They are called “restrictive” because they limit the meaning of the noun or pronoun they modify.

Restrictive adjective clauses are introduced by relative pronouns such as “that,” “who,” or “whom.” They cannot be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. For example:

  • The book that I am reading is very interesting.
  • The man who stole my wallet was caught by the police.

In both of these examples, the adjective clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence. Without it, the sentence would not make sense.

Nonrestrictive Adjective Clauses

Nonrestrictive adjective clauses, also known as nonessential adjective clauses, are dependent clauses that provide extra information about the noun or pronoun they are modifying. They are called “nonrestrictive” because they do not limit the meaning of the noun or pronoun they modify.

Nonrestrictive adjective clauses are usually introduced by relative pronouns such as “which,” “who,” or “whom.” They are set off by commas from the rest of the sentence. For example:

  • My car, which is red, is parked outside.
  • John, who is my neighbor, is a doctor.

In both of these examples, the adjective clause provides extra information about the noun or pronoun it modifies, but it is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. The sentence would still make sense without the adjective clause.

How to Use Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses are a type of dependent clause that function as adjectives to modify nouns or pronouns. They provide additional information about the noun or pronoun they modify, and they are introduced by relative pronouns or relative adverbs. In this section, we will discuss how to use adjective clauses to modify nouns and pronouns, as well as how to use them to modify complete sentences.

Modifying Nouns and Pronouns

Adjective clauses can be used to modify both nouns and pronouns. When an adjective clause modifies a noun, it usually comes immediately after the noun it modifies. For example:

  • The book that I read last night was really good.
  • The person who won the race was my friend.

In these examples, the adjective clauses “that I read last night” and “who won the race” modify the nouns “book” and “person,” respectively.

When an adjective clause modifies a pronoun, it usually comes immediately after the pronoun it modifies. For example:

  • I saw him, who was wearing a red shirt, at the party.
  • She talked to me, whose car was parked outside.

In these examples, the adjective clauses “who was wearing a red shirt” and “whose car was parked outside” modify the pronouns “him” and “me,” respectively.

Modifying Complete Sentences

Adjective clauses can also be used to modify complete sentences. When used in this way, they usually come at the beginning of the sentence and are separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma. For example:

  • When he arrived, which was later than expected, we had already started dinner.
  • Although she was tired, which was understandable, she decided to go for a walk.

In these examples, the adjective clauses “which was later than expected” and “which was understandable” modify the complete sentences “When he arrived” and “Although she was tired,” respectively.

It is important to note that when an adjective clause modifies a complete sentence, it usually contains a subject and a verb. This is because the adjective clause is essentially functioning as a complete sentence itself, but it is being used to modify the larger sentence.

Subordinating Conjunctions and Adverbs

Adjective clauses are introduced by relative pronouns or relative adverbs. Relative pronouns include “who,” “whom,” “whose,” “that,” and “which,” while relative adverbs include “when,” “where,” and “why.” These words are used to connect the adjective clause to the noun or pronoun it modifies.

In addition to relative pronouns and relative adverbs, adjective clauses can also be introduced by subordinating conjunctions such as “although,” “because,” “since,” and “while,” as well as adverbs such as “wherever,” “whenever,” and “however.” When introduced by these words, the adjective clause functions in the same way as when it is introduced by a relative pronoun or relative adverb.

Examples of Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses are a group of words that function as an adjective in a sentence. They modify or describe a noun or pronoun by giving more information about it. Here are some examples of adjective clauses that can help you understand their usage better:

  • The car that I bought last week is a hybrid. (identifies which car)
  • The woman, who is wearing a red dress, is my boss. (identifies which woman)
  • The book, which I read last night, was very interesting. (identifies which book)
  • The boy, whose mother is a doctor, is very smart. (identifies which boy)
  • The restaurant, where we had dinner last night, was very expensive. (identifies which restaurant)

In each of these examples, the adjective clause is highlighted in bold. Notice how it provides additional information about the noun or pronoun it modifies.

Adjective clauses can be introduced by relative pronouns such as “that,” “who,” “whom,” “whose,” and “which.” These pronouns help connect the adjective clause to the noun or pronoun it modifies.

Adjective clauses can also be introduced by relative adverbs such as “when,” “where,” and “why.” These adverbs help provide additional information about the noun or pronoun by specifying time, place, or reason.

Famous Example

One of the most famous examples of an adjective clause comes from Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. In the equation E=mc², the clause “that is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by the speed of light squared” acts as an adjective to describe the variable E.

This clause helps to define what E represents in the equation and provides important information about the relationship between mass and energy. Without this clause, the equation would not be complete and would not have the same level of meaning.

Einstein’s use of the adjective clause in this equation is a testament to his ability to communicate complex scientific concepts in a clear and concise manner. It is also a reminder of the importance of using precise language and grammar when communicating technical information.

In addition to Einstein’s example, there are many other famous examples of adjective clauses in literature, science, and everyday language. These clauses can be used to add detail, clarify meaning, and create more complex sentences.

Overall, the use of adjective clauses is an important tool for writers and speakers who want to communicate their ideas clearly and effectively. By mastering this grammar concept, you can enhance your writing and improve your ability to convey complex information to your audience.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

An adjective clause modifies a noun or pronoun in a sentence while an adverb clause modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Adjective clauses are introduced by relative pronouns such as who, whom, whose, that, and which, while adverb clauses are introduced by subordinating conjunctions such as after, although, because, before, if, since, until, when, and while.

How do you use an adjective clause in a sentence?

An adjective clause is used to provide additional information about a noun or pronoun in a sentence. It usually begins with a relative pronoun and contains a subject and a verb. The clause is usually placed after the noun or pronoun it modifies, but it can also come before the noun or pronoun in some cases.

What are some common words used to introduce an adjective clause?

Some common words used to introduce an adjective clause include who, whom, whose, that, and which. The choice of the relative pronoun depends on the noun or pronoun being modified and the type of information being provided.

Can an adjective clause come before the noun it modifies?

Yes, an adjective clause can come before the noun or pronoun it modifies, but this is less common than placing it after the noun or pronoun. When an adjective clause comes before the noun or pronoun, it usually adds emphasis to the information being provided.

How do you identify the subject and verb in an adjective clause?

The subject and verb in an adjective clause are usually easy to identify. The subject is the noun or pronoun that the clause is modifying, and the verb is the action word that describes what the subject is doing or the state of being of the subject.

What is the purpose of an adjective clause in writing?

The purpose of an adjective clause is to provide additional information about a noun or pronoun in a sentence. It helps to add detail, description, and specificity to the sentence, making it more interesting and informative for the reader.

Related Resources:
Order of Adjectives Possessive Adjectives
Coordinate Adjectives Compound Adjectives
Demonstrative Adjectives Predicate Adjective
Superlative Adjective Descriptive Adjectives
Interrogative Adjectives Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
Adjective Clause Adjective Phrase
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