May 18, 2021

Learn English Grammar: The Adjective Clause (Relative Clause)

The lesson that you are about to watch is about adjective clauses, of which there are two in this sentence. Can you see them? In some grammar books, you may see the adjective clause called the “relative clause”. Don’t get confused — they are the same thing. In this lesson, you will learn the difference between the two types of adjective clauses — the defining adjective clause, and the modifying adjective clause. I’ll also answer a common question people have about clauses: “Should I use a comma or not?”. After this lesson, you will be able to spot adjective clauses of all forms and use them to take your English writing and speaking to the next level.

Test your understanding with the quiz:

Watch Adam’s series on clauses!
Dependent Clauses
Noun Clauses
Adverb Clauses


Hi. Welcome back to I’m Adam. In today’s lesson we’re going to look at the adjective clause. Now, this is a dependent clause, and if you’re not sure what the difference between dependent or independent clause, you can check out my video about the independent clause and my introduction video to dependent clauses. In this lesson we’re going to dive a little bit deeper into this particular dependent clause, the adjective clause. Now, some of you will have grammar… Different grammar books, and some of you will see this called the relative clause. Relative clause, adjective clause, same thing. Different books like to call them different things. Okay? So we’re going to look at this.

Now, the first thing to remember about an adjective clause before we look at the actual structure of it, the full clause is essentially an adjective. Although it’s a clause, means it has a subject, and a verb, and maybe some modifiers – the whole piece, the whole clause together works like an adjective. So, because it works like an adjective: What does that mean? It means that it’s giving you some information about a noun somewhere in the sentence. You could have many nouns in a sentence, you could have many adjective clauses in a sentence. There’s no limit to how many you can have, although try not to have too many in one sentence because the sentence becomes very bulky, not a very good sentence.

So let’s get right into it. First of all, we have two types of adjective clause. We have a defining adjective clause, which means that it’s basically pointing to the noun and telling you something necessary about the noun. Without the adjective clause, the noun is incomplete. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know what it’s doing, etc. The second adjective clause is the modifying, means it is not necessary but we put it in to give a little bit of extra information about the noun. Okay? So it’s like an adjective that just gives you a little bit more description about the noun.

Two things to remember: The defining noun. Now, one of the biggest questions about adjective clauses is: Do I use a comma or do I not use a comma? For defining adjective clauses, no comma. For modifying, like the extra information, the ones that you could actually take out and the sentence is still okay, use a comma. We’re going to look at examples and understand this more.

Now, another thing to know about adjective clauses: They all begin with a relative pronoun. Okay? A relative pronoun. This is basically the conjunction of the clause. It is what begins the clause. Now, some of these can be also the subject of the clause, which means it will agree with the verb; some of them cannot. So these three… Whoa, sorry. “That”, “which”, and “who” can be both the conjunction and the subject. These ones: “whom”, “whose”, “when”, “where”, and “why” cannot be the subject of the clause; only the relative pronoun, only the conjunction of the clause. Now, in many cases, “that” can also be removed, but we’re going to look at that separately.

So, let’s look at some examples to get an idea. “The man lives next door.” So here we have an independent clause. Independent clause means it’s a complete idea, it stands by itself as a sentence, it doesn’t really need anything else. But the problem is “the man”. Which man? That man, that man, the man across the street? I don’t know. So this sentence, although it’s grammatically complete, is technically, in terms of meaning, incomplete because I don’t know who this man is. I need to identify him. So you can think of defining or identifying. Okay? I want to point specifically to one man because I have “the man”. I’m looking at somebody specific.

So here’s one way we can do it: “The man who lives next door”-“who lives next door”-“is a doctor”. Okay? So, again, I still have my independent clause: “The man is a doctor”, but now I have my adjective, my identifying adjective clause telling me who the man is.


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29 thoughts on “Learn English Grammar: The Adjective Clause (Relative Clause)

  1. Hi Mate!
    I don't usually use Youtube and that's a lie but i don't have any channel.
    I don't if even you see this massage but ☀
    If you do i will be glad to say that you helped me at the night of a bad dazzy grammar exam and i get alot from your module thanks.
    I really appreciate that.

  2. Hello Adam thanku so much for ssuch incredible videos im your follower from algeria i am a student of university who study english but the british academic one i used to follow u and use your rules but my teachers always tell me that he is american not british it means the rules of grammar lessons are not the same is it true

  3. it's very stupid……..if I am not say too stupid……….. if relative clause and adjective clause are one, then why there is two names???

  4. Adam, I don't know how to express my gratitude to you! Now you made writing funny for me thank you very much you making a great impact around the globe. Luv

  5. Sir I have an query why only relative pronoun 'that' is used after superlative degree.
    1) he is the best boy that I know ( why not who I know)

  6. Sir I have become your biggest fan .specially the way you explain and I have cleared a number of doubts just because of you😊😊.

  7. Hi,
    Let me know if we can place Adverbs between noun and adjective clause.

    For example,
    1) I wanna see the movie again we saw last night.
    2) I wanna see the movie we saw last night again.

    I'm wondering where the adverb " again" should be placed ? At the end or between Noun and Adjective clause ?

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Thanks so much

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