As you watch the video, look at the examples of relative clauses. They are in red in the subtitles. Then read the conversation below to learn more. Finally, do the grammar exercises to check you understand, and can use, relative clauses correctly.
We use relative clauses to describe or give extra information about something we have already mentioned. We often use relative pronouns (e.g. who, where, that, which, whose) to introduce relative clauses.
What are relative clauses and why do we use them?
A clause is a group of words containing a verb. Relative clauses are a way of giving more information about a person, thing, place, event, etc. We often use them to avoid repeating information.
The Uros people make fires. Their fires are used for cooking. = The Uros people make fires, which they use for cooking.
OK, so there the relative pronoun is 'which' and it refers back to 'the fires' and 'which they use for cooking' is the relative clause.
That’s right, which is used for things (never for people). There are a lot of other relative pronouns: who (for people), that (for a thing or a person), where (for a place), whose (for possession) and when (for a time).
What are defining relative clauses?
They are clauses that you need in the sentence for it to make sense.
The people who live here have had the same kind of lifestyle for hundreds of years.
If I said 'The people have had the same kind of lifestyle for hundreds of years', you wouldn’t know which people I was talking about.
There are no commas before and after the clause.
No, not with defining relative clauses.
The islanders pick the tall reeds that grow at the sides of the lake and use them to make the islands.
OK, so what about non-defining relative clauses?
We use those to give extra information, which isn’t absolutely necessary. We use commas to separate them from the rest of the sentence, unless they come at the end of the sentence, when we use a comma and a full stop.
That grey thing, which you can see on the roof there, isn’t very traditional.
The video’s from yesterday, when she was on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca.
This is Sophie, whose blog you’ve been reading.
OK, got it, I think. Is there anything else that I need to know?
Ah, you just used a relative clause with that. We can use that instead of who or which in defining clauses, not non-defining clauses.
So this grammar snack, which has been very interesting, has taught me everything that I need to know about relative clauses.
OK, it’s taught you nearly everything you need to know.
Worksheets and downloads
Ollie: Hey, Daiz, you remember that Mum was talking about putting videos up on her blog?
Ollie: Well, she’s got the first one up. It looks pretty cool.
Daisy: Oh, right. Where is she at the moment? Peru, isn’t it?
Ollie: I think she’s in Bolivia now, but the video’s from yesterday, when she was on the
Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca.
Daisy: OK, let’s have a look.
Sophie: Hi, everyone. Today I’m visiting the floating Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca.
Sophie: The people who live here have had the same kind of lifestyle for hundreds of years. The amazing thing about these islands is that they are man-made and made out of plants. The islanders pick the tall reeds that grow at the sides of the lake and use them to make the islands. Every three months they have to put down new reeds. If they didn’t, the islands would sink into the lake! Oh, yeah, and as I said, the islands float, so they have to be anchored to the bottom of the lake with rope, like a boat.
Daisy: Hey, it’s really good!
Sophie: The islands are kind of bouncy to walk on, but they’re pretty strong. The Uros people make fires, which they use for cooking. OK, there’s a house made of reeds, but that grey thing, which you can see on the roof there, isn’t very traditional. That’s a solar panel – technology gets to every corner of the world nowadays.
Ollie: Mmm, it’s a bit like a geography lesson, but it’s interesting.
Daisy: Yeah, I think it’s great.
Ollie: OK, let’s write a nice comment and ‘like’ it.
Do people still follow traditions or use old ways of doing things where you live? What do they do?