Why is relative clause called Adjective Clause

A relative clause is a sentence describing a noun, however, it cannot be used separately.  It comes after the noun defined by a basic sentence. It is also called adjective clause because it defines a noun.

The adjective precedes the noun it describes. The relative clause comes after the noun. It is divided into defining and non-defining.

The defining relative clause allows us to identify a noun and distinguish it from others.

When we say “the man”, the person cannot understand which man we are talking about. However, in the phrase ‘the man who is standing at the corner’ we are now talking about a particular person.

The non-defining relative clause comes after an already defined noun.

When we say “my father“, the person in front of us already understands who we are talking about.  If we define this noun again, the sentence is a non-defining relative clause. That is a clause that gives extra information about that noun.

  • The man who will come to see you tomorrow wants to work with you.  (Defining)
  • Mr.  Jones, who will come to see you tomorrow, wants to work with you.  (Non-defining)

Relative Pronouns in English, Meaning and Example Sentences

If the noun that we will define is in the case of the subject, the words that we can use might be: who, that, which. 

‘Who’ is used only for humans, ‘which’ is used for animals and inanimate beings, and ‘that is used for all. With non-defining relative clause, ‘that’ is not used in any case.


  • I congratulated the student who got the highest mark.
  • The book which I gave you last week was very interesting.
  • The man that we fought yesterday was a sales representative.

A relative clause comes after the noun it defines.  If the defined sentence is the subject of the basic sentence, the relative clause is located between the subject and the predicate.


  • The student is successful. I congratulated.
  • The student who I congratulated is successful.

If the defined noun is singular, the singular verb is used, and the plural verb is used in case of the plural noun being defined.


  • The person who lives next door is an engineer.
  • The people who live in Paris are very friendly.

**It is not important whether the sentence is active or passive.


If the defined sentence is the subject of the basic sentence, the relative clause is located between the subject and the predicate.

If the noun we describe declares possessive in the defining sentence, ‘whose’ is used for both people and objects.


  • Do you know the gallerist? His car was stolen.
  • Do you know the gallerist whose car was stolen?

If the noun we describe declares a place in the defining sentence, we may use ‘where’.


  • Do not clean the room.  My son is studying in that room.
  • Do not clean the room where my son is studying.


We can use which and that when defining a noun that states a place but we have to use the preposition of that name.


  • I liked the seaside resort which we spent last summer.

If the noun we define specifies the time in the defining sentence (in that year, on that day, etc.), ‘when’ can be used.


  • 1821is the year. Napoleon Bpnaparte died then.

  • 1821is the year when Napoleon Bpnaparte died.


If there is a sentence that expresses reason, we can use ‘why’.


  • The reason why we are holding this meeting is to meet each other.

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