Thinking Box

Fundamentals of English Grammar - Chapter 12: Adjective Clauses

12-1 Adjective Clauses: Introduction

Adjectives

  • An adjective modifies a noun. Modify means to change a little. An adjective describes or gives information about the noun.
  • An adjective usually comes in front of a noun.
  • (a) I met a kind man.
    (b) I met famous man.

Adjective Clauses

  • An adjective clause* modifies a noun. It describes or give information about a noun.
  • An adjective clause follows a noun.
  • (c) I met a man who is kind to everybody.
    (d) I met a man who is a famous poet.
    (e) I met a man who lives in Chicago.

*GRAMMAR TERMINOLOGY

  • (1) I met a man = an independent clause; it is a complete sentence.
    (2) He lives in Chicago = an independent clause; it is a complete sentence.
    (3) who lives in Chicago = a dependent clause; it is NOT a complete sentence.
    (4) I met a man who lives in Chicago = an independent clause + a dependent clause; a complete sentence.

    A clause is a structure that has a subject and a verb. There are two kinds of clauses: independent and dependent.

    • An independent clause is a main clause and can stand alone as a sentence, as in (1) and (2).
    • A dependent clause, as in (3), cannot stand alone as a sentence. It must be connected to an independent clause, as in (4).

12-2 Using Who and That in Adjective Clauses to Describe People

  • (a) The man is friendly. He lives next to me. (S + V)
    He -> who -> who lives next to me
    (b) The man who lives next to me is friendly.

    In adjective clauses, who and that are used as subject pronouns to describe people.
    In (a): He is a subject pronoun. He refers to "the man." To make an adjective clause, change he to who.
    Who is a subject pronoun. Who refers to "the man".

  • (c) The woman is talkative. She lives next to me.
    She -> that -> that lives next to me
    (d) The woman that lives to me is talkative.

    That is also a subject pronoun and can replace who, as in (d).
    The subject pronouns who and that cannot be omitted from an adjective clause.
    INCORRECT: The woman lives next to me is talkative.
    AS subject pronouns, both who and that are common in conversation, but who is more common in writing.

    In (b) and (d): The adjective clause immediately follows the noun it modifies.
    INCORRECT: The woman is talkative that live next to me.

12-3 Using Object Pronouns in Adjective Clauses to Describe People

  • (a) The man was friendly. I met him. (him -> that) (S + V + O)
    (b) The man that I met was friendly.
    (c) The man Ø I met was friendly.

    In adjective clauses, pronouns are used as the object of a verb to describe people.
    In (a): him is an object pronoun. Him refers to "the man."

    One way to make an adjective clause is to change him to that. That is the object pronoun. That refers to "the man." That comes at the beginning of an adjective clause.

    An object pronoun can be omitted from an adjective clause, as in (c).

  • (d) The man was friendly. I met him. (him -> who/whom) (S +V + O)
    (e) The man who I met was friendly.
    (f) The man whom I met was friendly.

    Him can also be changed to who or whom, as in (e) and (f).

    As an object pronoun, that is more common than who in speaking. Ø is the most common choice for both speaking and writing.

    Whom is generally used only in very formal writing.

12-4 Using Pronouns in Adjective Clauses to Describe Things

  • (a) The river is polluted. It flows through the town. (It -> that/which) (S +V)
    (b) The river that flows through the town is polluted.
    (c) The river which flows through the town is polluted.

    Who and whom refer to people.
    Which refers to things.
    That can refer to either people or things.

    In (a): To make an adjective clause, change it to that or which. It, that, and which all refer to a thing (the river).
    (b) and (c) have the same meaning, but (b) is more common than (c) in speaking and writing.

    When that and which are used as the subject of an adjective clause, the CANNOT be omitted.
    INCORRECT: The river flows through the town is polluted.

  • (d) The books were expensive. I bought them. (them -> that/which) (S + V + O)
    (e) The books that I bought were expensive.
    (f) The books which I bought were expensive.
    (g) The books Ø I bought were expensive.

    That or which can be used as an object in an adjective clause, as in (e) and (f).

    An object pronoun can be omitted from an adjective clause, as in (e) and (f).

    (e), (f), and (g) have the same meaning. In speaking, that and Ø are more common than which. In writing, that is the most common, and Ø is rare.

12-5 Singular and Plural Verbs in Adjective Clauses

  • (a) I know the man who is sitting over there.

    In (a): The verb in the adjective clause (is) is singular because who refers to a singular noun, man.

  • (b) I know the people who are sitting over there.

    In (b): The verb in the adjective clause (are) is plural because who refers to a plural noun, people.

12-6 Using Prepositions in Adjective Clauses

(a) The man was nice. I talked to(PREP) him(OBJ).

OBJ + PREP

(b) The man that I talked to was nice.
(c) The man Ø I talked to was nice.
(d) The man whom I talked to was nice.

PREP + OBJ

(e) The man to whom I talk was nice.

(f) The chair is hard. I am siting in(PREP) it(OBJ).

OBJ + PREP

(g) The chair that I am sitting in is hard.
(h) The chair Ø I am sitting in is hard.
(i) The chair which I am sitting in is hard.

PREP + OBJ

(j) The chair in which I am sitting is hard.

That, whom, and which can be used as the object (OBJ) of a preposition (PREP) in an adjective clause.

REMINDER: An object pronoun can be omitted from an adjective clause, as in (c) and (h).

In very formal English, a preposition comes at the beginning of an adjective clause, followed by either whom or which, as in (e) and (j). This is not common in spoken English.

NOTE: In (e) and (j), that or who cannot be used, and the pronoun CANNOT be omitted.
(b), (c), (d), and (e) have the same meaning.
(g), (h), (i), and (j) have the same meaning.

12-7 Using Whose in Adjective Clauses

  • (a) The man called the police. His car was stolen. (His car -> whose car)
    (b) The man whose car was stolen called the police.

    Whose* shows possession.
    In (a): His car can be changed to whose car to make an adjective clause.
    In (b): whose car was stolen = an adjective clause.

  • (c) I know a girl. Her brother is a movie star. (Her brother -> whose brother)
    (d) I know a girl whose brother is a movie star.

    In (c): Her brother can be changed to whose brother to make an adjective clause.

  • (e) The people were friendly. We bought their house. (whose house)
    (f) The people whose house we bought were friendly.

    In (e): Their house can be changed to whose house to make an adjective clause.

*Whose and who's have the same pronunciation but NOT the same meaning.
Who's = who is: Who's (Who is) your teacher?

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