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For 2024 Board Exam
CBSE Competency Based Questions:
Class 10
Class 12

Defining & Non-Defining Relative Clause

Do you Know which kind of relative clause is used in Spoken & Written English? Read to explore.

Relative clauses

What is a relative clause?

A relative clause is part of a sentence which gives information about which person or thing we are talking about.

Look at the two examples below.

  • The train was cancelled. We were going to travel in it. (without a relative clause)

  • The train that we were going to travel was cancelled. (With a relative clause)


  • The relative clause tells us which train was cancelled.

Defining Relative Clause:

  • A relative clause defines the noun it is talking about. Such a relative clause is called a defining relative clause.

  • Example The train that we were going to travel was cancelled

Non-defining Relative Clause:

Study the following Sentences:

  • Our train was cancelled. It was going to New Delhi today. ( Without a relative clause)

  • Our train, which was going to New Delhi today, was cancelled. (with a relative clause)

  • If we leave out the highlighted relative clause in the above sentence, the meaning of the sentence does not change.

  • The relative clause does not define which train ( the name of the train) we are talking about.

  • Therefore, we can leave out the relative clause from the sentence as it is not a very essential information in the context of the sentence.

Such a relative clause which give us extra information-not essential to understanding the meaning of the sentence, is called a non-defining relative clause.

Example of Non-defining relative clause from the above sentence:

  • Our train, which was going to New Delhi today, was cancelled.

Another Example of Non-defining Relative Clause is

  • My friend’s birthday, which was held last month, was really entertaining.

How to identify a non-defining relative clause?

  • In written English there is a comma at the beginning and end of a non-defining relative clause.

  • In spoken English there will be a slight pause before and after the non-defining relative clause.

Let’s Recapitulate:

  • Relative clauses give additional information about a noun, such as a person, place or thing.

  • Relative pronouns introduce a relative clause. They represent who for people, that and which for things, when for time, and whose to show possession.

  • Relative clauses belong to one of two categories: defining relative clauses and non-defining relative clauses.

Extra Info:

  • In informal interaction, relative pronouns like who and when are generally replaced with that in defining relative clauses.

  • The man that called this morning was very intelligent.

  • Do you recollect my friend that you first met?

  • The relative pronoun who is used in respect of people. However, in formal written and spoken interaction, if the pronoun refers to the object of the clause, we use whom instead.

  • My Maths teacher, whom I really adored, expired last year.

  • The girl whom I met this morning is a dance teacher.

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