English Language
Adjectival Clause

Adjectival Clause

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Understanding the Various Types of Clauses in English: Exploring Adjectival Clauses

Before we dive into the world of adjectival clauses, let's refresh our knowledge of clauses.

A clause is a meaningful group of words containing a subject and a predicate. There are two types of clauses: independent and dependent. An independent clause, also known as a main clause, can stand alone as a complete sentence. In contrast, a dependent clause, also called a subordinate clause, cannot function as a sentence on its own.

Now, let's shift our focus to adjectival clauses.

What is an Adjectival Clause?

An adjectival clause, also referred to as an adjective clause or relative clause, is a dependent clause that acts as an adjective. You may hear it being called by different names, but they all refer to the same thing. Simply put, an adjectival clause adds more information to a noun or pronoun in a sentence.

As a reminder, an adjective is a word that describes a noun or pronoun. An adjectival clause is a type of adjective that provides more detail and clarity.

Another term for an adjectival clause is a relative clause. These clauses typically begin with a relative pronoun, a specific type of pronoun that introduces a relative clause.

The most commonly used relative pronouns in English are: who, that, which, whose, whom, when, and why. While these words may have other functions in different contexts, in this case, they signal the beginning of a relative clause. Later on, we'll see some examples of these pronouns being used in adjectival clauses.

Purpose and Benefits of Using Adjectival Clauses

You may question why we use adjectival clauses when a simple adjective can describe a noun or pronoun. However, an adjectival clause can often add more context and flow to a sentence than a single adjective can. Let's look at some examples to see how an adjectival clause can make a difference.

Example 1: My friendly neighbor is coming over to visit.

Example 2: My neighbor who is always baking delicious treats is coming over to visit.

In the first sentence, the adjective "friendly" is quite vague and can mean different things to different people. In contrast, the adjectival clause "who is always baking delicious treats" provides a clear and specific description of the neighbor. This helps the reader understand the neighbor better.

In summary, an adjectival clause is another way of providing information about a noun or pronoun in a sentence. It can be useful in adding more context and clarity to a thought.

The Two Types of Adjectival Clauses

There are two types of adjectival clauses: essential and nonessential.

The Essential Adjectival Clause

Also known as a restrictive clause, the essential adjectival clause specifies the noun or pronoun it modifies. It provides crucial information necessary to identify the subject. You can think of it as limiting the noun or pronoun to a specific context.

Example: The car that was parked outside my house was stolen last night.

In this sentence, the adjectival clause "that was parked outside my house" provides essential information about the car by specifying which car we are talking about. It restricts the car to one specific context, and without this clause, the sentence would lack clarity.

The Nonessential Adjectival Clause

Also called a nonrestrictive clause, the nonessential adjectival clause provides additional information about the noun or pronoun without limiting or restricting it to a specific context. This information is not essential for identifying the subject.

Example: My sister, who loves to travel, is planning a trip to Europe.

In this example, the adjectival clause "who loves to travel" provides nonessential information about the subject, my sister. It is not necessary for identifying her, but it adds more detail and character to the sentence.

Examples of Adjectival Clauses

To further illustrate adjectival clauses, here are a few more specific examples.

Using Adjectival Clauses to Enhance Your Writing and Communication Skills

Adjectival clauses play a crucial role in providing additional details and descriptions to a sentence, making it more interesting and informative. By understanding adjectival clauses, you can improve your writing and communication skills. Keep practicing and try incorporating adjectival clauses in your next piece of writing!

Examples of Adjectival Clauses in Different Contexts

The restaurant, which opened a month ago, has already closed down. The adjectival clause adds essential details to the noun restaurant, specifying which restaurant is being referred to.

In this example, the adjectival clause does not begin with a relative pronoun, which is acceptable in restrictive clauses.

My old guitar, which I thought was completely broken, can still play well. The adjectival clause provides additional, but not necessary, information about the noun guitar.

Without the relative pronoun "which," the nonessential adjectival clause has less impact. The phrase "I thought was completely broken" does not flow smoothly without "which" as its starting point.

Ashley, who we know from debate club, will be moving to Ohio next month. The adjectival clause gives supplementary information about Ashley, without specifically identifying her.

In formal grammar, the correct pronoun to use in this clause would be "whom" instead of "who." However, in everyday conversations, "whom" is becoming increasingly rare, and using "who" for both the subject and object is becoming more common. In formal writing, "whom" can still be used in this context.

How to Identify an Adjectival Clause

To determine if a clause is an adjectival clause, ask yourself which word is being modified by the clause. In other words, which word is receiving new information from the clause? If the clause modifies a noun or pronoun, then it is an adjectival clause.


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