Teaching Restrictive and Non Restrictive Relative Clauses

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1 Response

  1. Chris Quinn says:

    I think the definition provided here can be a little confusing, for both teachers and students.

    I would describe Restrictive relative clauses as clauses which describe a subset of a Noun, not all instances of that Noun.

    Example: The elephant which has a long nose likes to sleep.

    Here, I am implying that this elephant has a long nose, but not all elephants have a long nose.

    I would describe Non- restrictive relative clauses as clauses which describe all instances of that Noun.

    Example: The elephant, which has a long nose, likes to sleep.

    Here, I am giving a information on something that is true for all elephants (“they all have long noses”). To me, this tells me that Non-restrictive relative clauses are non-restrictive because they are not restricted to a limited group of that Noun, but to all of them; therefore, they define that Noun.

    When I talk about this in class, I always have students tell me the opposite than what I have just described; they think that no commas equals a partial definition of the word. I chalk this up to a grammarian in some past era trying to describe grammar in a way that they understood without seeing how that description works in the real world. :)

    Tricky, thing, grammar descriptions!

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