Adjective Clauses

 

 

First, letís remember that adjectives modify (or describe) nouns and pronouns.

 

 

Example:

 

Intelligent students understand adjectives.

(The word "intelligent" is an adjective because it describes the noun "students.")

 

 

But adjectives are not always single words. Sometimes they are clauses:

 

Example:

 

 

Students who are intelligent understand adjectives.

(The adjective clause is underlined. It is an "adjective" clause because it describes the noun "students.")

 

 

Remember

A clause is a group of related words with a subject and verb.

 

 

Remember

Adjective clauses are always dependent clauses.

 

 

Adjective clauses, like adverb clauses, are introduced by dependent signals.

 

If you want to be considered cool and impress members of the opposite sex, remember this:

 Subordinating conjunctions introduce adverb clauses and relative pronouns introduce adjective clauses.

 

 

OK, OK, so that wonít impress most members of the opposite sexóonly English majors.

 

 

If you happen to be in love with a botanist, a cocktail waitress or a rock singer, it will be OK just to remember this:

 

 

Adverb and adjective clauses are both introduced by dependent signals, but those signals are different.

 

 

 

And now the good news (finally!). . .

 

There are only five words which introduce adjective clauses.

 

They are called relative pronouns because they relate the clause to something in the sentence.

 

If you find yourself not caring a hoot in a far country about that, just remember that there are only five dependent signals which introduce adjective clauses. They are:

Who

Whom

Whose

Which

That

 

A Word of Caution:

Sometimes these words function as dependent signals, but sometimes they donít.

 

Example:

How did you come up with that?

("That" doesnít introduce a clause. It identifies something. If you really want to know, it is a demonstrative pronoun. But donít worry your noggin about that now. Just be aware that these dependent signals can sometimes do other things.)

 

 

 

Letís look at a couple of examples:

 

 

I love sentences which extol the virtues of English teachers.

(The adjective clause is underlined. It modifies the object "sentences.")

 

Students whom I admire want to become English teachers.

(Again, the adjective clause is underlined and modifies the subject "students.")

 

 

Remember

A noun is a subject or an object, so adjectives will always modify subjects or objects.

 

 

Letís look at these sentences a little more closely.

 

 

I love sentences which extol the virtues of English teachers.

(The verb of this clause is "extol." The subject is "which" because it stands for "sentences.")

 

 

Students whom I admire want to become English teachers.

(The verb of this clause is "admire." The subject of the clause is "I." The object is "whom.")

 

 

If you are well fed, well rested, and psychologically at peace with yourself, you have no doubt come to an astonishing realization.

 

 

Dependent signals which introduce adjective clauses perform a double duty. They introduce the clause and they also function inside the clause as a subject or object.

 

 

Therefore, I call these little devils (sorry, I mean these relative pronouns), double duty dependent signals.

 

 

Again, the double duty dependent signals which introduce adjective clauses are:

Who

Whom

Whose

Which

That

 

 

But what about these examples?

 

The grade I received was a shock.

(We donít see any dependent signal do we? But we know we have two clauses because we have two subject-verb combinationsó"grade/was," "I/received.")

 

 

The book I borrowed was full of grammatical wisdom.

(No dependent signal here either. But we have two subject verb combinationsó"book/was" and "I/borrowed"óso we know we have two clauses.)

 

 

Look at them now:

 

The grade [that] I received was a shock.

 

The book [that] I borrowed was full of grammatical wisdom.

(Hereís the point. Sometimes the dependent signal [usually "that"] is implied. Mentally insert it, and the sentence will be easier to analyze.)

 

 

Thereís only one more thing about adjective clauses that you need to know. Itís something youíve never, ever understood, and Iím going to explain it so that youíll never, ever forget it. (So try to contain your joy!)

 

Some adjective clauses need to be set off by commas and others donít.

 

Now hereís the part youíve never understoodónon-restrictive clauses need commas and restrictive clauses donít.

 

"What in the Sam Hill is the difference?" you say.

 

It is this:

Some adjective clauses are like gossip, they provide additional detail about someone (or something) whose identity we already know. Put commas around those.

 

 

Examples:

 

My English teacher, who wears old fashioned ties, is laughed at by the students.

(The adjective clause is underlined. It doesnít identify the English teacher; it just provides a gossipy sort of detail about him. Set these off with commas.)

 

 

My English book, which is a monument of boredom, is used mainly as a door stop.

(Once again, the adjective clause is underlined. It doesnít identify the English book, it just provides a gossipy, editorial comment about it. Set this clause off with a comma.)

 

 

Now take a look at these:

 

The English teachers that I like best forget to go to class.

(This isnít pure gossip any longer. The writer doesnít like all English teachers equally well. The adjective clause identifies which ones he likes best. Because it helps identify, donít set if off with commas. )

 

Anyone who reads all of this will go away happier and wiser.

(Once again, this clause identifies who will go away happier and wiser. Itís not gossip, itís essential information, so donít put commas around it.)

 



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