Relative Pronouns in Non-defining Clauses
This handout provides detailed rules and examples for the usage of relative pronouns (that, who, whom, whose, which, where, when, and why).
Contributors:Russell Keck, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2013-03-01 10:15:39
Non-defining relative clauses (also known as non-restrictive, or parenthetical, clauses) provide some additional information that is not essential and may be omitted without affecting the contents of the sentence. All relative pronouns EXCEPT that can be used in non-defining clauses; however, the pronouns MAY NOT be omitted. Non-defining clauses ARE separated by commas.
The table below sums up the use of relative pronouns in non-defining clauses:
|People||Things / concepts||Place||Time||Reason|
|Possessive||whose||whose, of which|
- Relative pronoun used as a subject:
The writer, who lives in this luxurious mansion, has just published his second novel.
- Relative pronoun used as an object:
The house at the end of the street, which my grandfather built, needs renovating.
- Relative pronoun used as a possessive:
William Kellogg, whose name has become a famous breakfast foods brand-name, had some weird ideas about raising children.
Some special uses of relative pronouns in non-defining clauses
If you are referring to the previous clause as a whole, use which:
My friend eventually decided to get divorced, which upset me a lot.
- of whom, of which
Use of whom for persons and of which for things or concepts after numbers and words such as most, many, some, both, none:
I saw a lot of new people at the party, some of whom seemed familiar.
He was always coming up with new ideas, most of which were absolutely impracticable.