EVERYTHING (ALMOST) YOU WANTED TO KNOW (WHO WANTS TO KNOW ABOUT THIS STUFF?), BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK. I am totally html inept, but will do my best to keep this blog supplied with plenty of syntax junk. The main aim here is to help my students (my future colleagues, in fact) come to grips with the syntax of English, even if they can't stand it.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

ADJECTIVE CLAUSES

Adjective clauses can be considered “big adjectives”, that is, they do the same thing as adjectives—modify nouns—, but have a verb. Although not always the case, relative pronouns are very commonly used in adjective clauses.

e.g. THE WOMAN WHO I MARRIED IS MAGIC.
- “who I married” is a group of words with a verb (clause) that qualifies “The woman” (noun phrase). Therefore, it is a clause modifying a noun, or an adjective clause.

There are two types of adjective clauses: Non-restrictive (Non-defining) and Restrictive (Defining).

NON-RESTRICTIVE ADJECTIVE CLAUSES (NON-DEFINING RELATIVE CLAUSES)

These clauses merely add extra information, which is not necessarily needed. Therefore, they are usually separated by (or between) commas, as if the adjective clauses could be removed from the sentence, without affecting the meaning.

e.g. THE MOON, WHICH IS MADE OF GREEN CHEESE, IS FULL TONIGHT.
- As “the moon” is a noun phrase that is quite specific in itself, it is not necessary to restrict its meaning. “Which is made of green cheese” can be removed from the sentence without affecting the central idea of the main clause (The moon is full tonight).

e.g. MADONNA, WHO IS MARRIED TO GUY RITCHIE, HAS RECORDED ANOTHER ALBUM.
- Since "Madonna” is a clear noun (that is, everyone thinks of the same person when they hear this), there is no need to restrict the meaning. “Who is married to Guy Ritchie” can be removed from the sentence without affecting the central idea of the main clause (Madonna has recorded another album).

e.g. ZOOMP, WHERE STANLEY SHOPS, SELLS DESIGNER CLOTHES.
- As the name of the store “Zoomp” is very clear and difficult to confuse with another store (in this case), it is not necessary to restrict its meaning. “Where Stanley shops” can be removed from the sentence without affecting the central idea of the main clause (Zoomp sells designer clothes).

e.g. INDUSTRIAL SECTORS, THAT DEPENDED ON RAW MATERIALS FOR PRODUCTION, HAVE UNDERGONE MAJOR CHANGES THE LOGISTICS OF THEIR BUSINESSES.
- This sentence leads us to believe that ALL industrial sectors have undergone major changes the logistics of their businesses. The presence of commas leads us to understand that “that depended on raw materials for production” is extra information (a non-restrictive adjective clause). Therefore, it can be removed without affecting the central idea of the main clause (Industrial sectors have undergone major changes the logistics of their businesses). Thus, we understand that ALL industrial sectors have undergone major changes the logistics of their businesses.

NB: Commas are used in non-restrictive clauses to show the “removability” of the information that follows (or that is in between them).

RESTRICTIVE ADJECTIVE CLAUSES (DEFINING RELATIVE CLAUSES)

Restrictive clauses, as the name suggests, aim at limiting the broad meaning of the noun. That is, they provide information that is aimed at being more specific in relation to the noun they modify. Because the noun is vague or not specific, the adjective clause helps to identify or give specifics about the noun. If removed, the meaning of the sentence will suffer a change.

e.g. THE EXAM THAT WE DID YESTERDAY WAS TOUGH.
- “that we did yesterday” restricts (limits) the broad idea of “The exam”. Of all the exams I could be referring to, I refer only to that one we did yesterday. Without restricting “the exam”, we are unsure of which exam “was tough”.

e.g. THE WOMAN WHO IS STANDING NEXT TO YOUR NIECE IS MY SISTER-IN-LAW.
- “who is standing next to your niece” restricts (limits) the broad idea of “The woman”. Of all the sisters-in-law I could be referring to, I refer only to that one who is standing next to your niece. Without restricting “the woman”, we are unsure which woman “is my sister-in-law”.

e.g. THE HOUSE WHOSE ROOF WAS DAMAGED HAS NOW BEEN REPAIRED.
- “whose roof was damaged” restricts (limits) the broad idea of “The house”. Of all the houses I could be referring to, I refer only to that one whose roof was damaged. Without restricting “the house”, we are unsure which house “has now been repaired”.

e.g. THE CITY WHERE I GREW UP IS THE THIRD LARGEST IN THE WORLD.
- “where I grew up” restricts (limits) the broad idea of “The city”. Of all the cities I could be referring to, I refer only to that one where I grew up. Without restricting “the city”, we are unsure which city “is the third largest in the world”.
NB: The word "where", in this specific case, is working as a relative pronoun. Not always does it work as a relative pronoun. Here it is referring back to the noun phrase "the city" and thus modifies it.

e.g. THE INFORMATION THAT I GOT WAS VERY HUSH-HUSH.
- “that I got” restricts (limits) the broad idea of “The information”. Of all the information I could be referring to, I refer only to that information that I got. Without restricting “the information”, we are unsure which information “was very hush-hush”.

NB: No commas should be used in restrictive adjective clauses, as removal of the restrictive clause is not recommended.

COMMAS IN ADJECTIVE CLAUSES

Sometimes, placing commas--a fact that will change a restrictive clause to a non-restrictive clause--is often open to interpretation.

e.g. THE SUPERMARKETS, THAT OFFER DISCOUNTS, ARE EXTREMELY CROWDED.
- The presence of commas in the example above leads us to believe that all supermarkets are extremely crowded, that is, as “that offer discounts” is extra information (a non-restrictive adjective clause), it can be removed without affecting the central idea of the main clause (The supermarkets are extremely crowded). Thus, we understand that ALL supermarkets are crowded.

e.g. THE SUPERMARKETS THAT OFFER DISCOUNTS ARE EXTREMELY CROWDED.
- The lack of commas in the above example leads us to believe that only some supermarkets are extremely crowded, that is, as “that offer discounts” is specific, limiting information (a restrictive adjective clause), it cannot be removed without affecting the central idea of the main clause. Thus, we understand that ONLY the supermarkets that offer discounts are extremely crowded.

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