A clause is a group of words that have a subject and a verb. Clauses can be independent or dependent. An independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence. A dependent clause cannot stand alone. It needs an independent clause to be a complete sentence and to be fully understood.
Adjective clauses are dependent clauses – they cannot stand alone. They must be combined with an independent clause.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone knows that adjectives describe nouns (people, places, or things). Well, think of adjective clauses as doing the same thing; they describe a noun. An adjective clause is a group of words that typically start with relative pronouns. This post will focus entirely on subject relative pronouns, meaning that the relative pronoun that introduces the adjective clause is the subject in that clause. This is easy to recognize as the relative pronoun will be followed by a verb.
- Use who to describe people.
- Use that and which to describe places or things.
- I know the women who work at the bar. Explanation: Think of this as a combination of two sentences. I know the women. They work at the bar. “Who” is the subject of the adjective clause “who work at the bar”.
- Ottawa is a city that attracts a lot of tourists. Explanation: Think of this as a combination of two sentences. Ottawa is a city. It attracts a lot of tourists. “That” is the subject of the adjective clause “that attracts a lot of tourists”.
- Savannah, which is where I got married, is a beautiful city. Explanation: Think of this as a combination of two sentences. Savannah is a beautiful city. It is where I got married. “Which” is the subject of the adjective clause “which is where I got married”.
Some things to remember:
- Pay attention to verb use in the adjective clause. If the subject relative pronoun refers to a singular noun, we use a singular verb. If the relative pronoun refers to a plural noun, use the plural form of the verb.
- Never use subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, they) and a subject relative pronoun in the same adjective clause.
Part 2 of this series focuses on the two types of adjective clauses, namely, identifying and non-identifying.