Relative clauses

Who, whose, which, and that

Video: Relative pronouns English grammar hosted by TeacherPhilEnglish (new tab). (Watching time: 4m:37secs)

Instructions: Hover or tap the questions below to see the reason for the answers given in the quiz.

1. Identify the meaning for each sentence
i) The buns, which I bought, were burnt.
ii) The buns which I bought were burnt.

i) All the buns were burnt (and I was silly enough to buy some).
ii) Only the buns which I bought were burnt.
Why: The placement of the commas modifies the meaning. In the first sentence the information is non-essential (see the commas separating the clause). If you remove the non-essential information you are left with the sentence "The buns were burnt", which implies all the buns. In the second sentence the writer is only commenting on the buns which he bought.

2. How many daughters do I have?
My daughter, who lives in Scotland, sent me a kilt.

Why: I only have one daughter, living in Scotland. (The information about Scotland is extra, non-essential information.)
If I said "My daughter who lives in Scotland sent me a kilt", I am only talking about the daughter I have in Scotland. Total number of daughters unknown.

3. Is this relative clause essential or non-essential?
That is the grammar point which I can never remember!

Why: If you remove the relative clause "...which I can never remember!" you are left with a clause that doesn't make a lot of sense on its own *That is the grammar point [what?]*. Note: no commas in the sentence.

4. Make this sentence more formal
The people whom they were talking to have disappeared.

The people to whom they were talking have disappeared.
Why: In informal or spoken English, you can end your sentence with a preposition, but in formal written English you want to put the preposition adjacent to the relative pronoun. Look at this pair of sentences: 'They gave him the retirement he had been dreaming about for years' vs 'They gave him the retirement about which he had been dreaming for years'.