Having trouble identifying adjective clauses? It’s easier than you may think! Adjective clauses are just like adjectives in that they modify or describe the nouns or pronouns in a sentence. For example:
Here the word athletic is an adjective because it describes the noun students. However, adjectives are not always just one word. Sometimes they are clauses.
What are adjective clauses?
First of all, it’s important to understand the meaning of a clause. A clause is a group of related words that contain a subject and verb. So, an adjective clause is a group of related words with a subject and verb that describes a noun or pronoun. An adjective clause is also always dependent which means it cannot stand alone as a sentence.
The clause in this sentence is that she is wearing. That she is wearing couldn’t stand alone in a sentence. To make things a little easier to understand, an adjective clause must do three things:
- It must contain a subject and verb.
- It must begin with a relative pronoun (who, whom, whose, that, or which) or relative adverb (when, where, or why).
- An adjective clause performs the job of an adjective by answering the questions, What kind? Which one? How many?
In addition, while an adjective usually comes before the noun or pronoun it describes, an adjective clause will always follow the noun or pronoun. Let’s look at a couple of examples of adjective clauses. Examples of Adjective Clauses
Here the adjective clause is which describe life in the 18th century. It modifies the noun books.
The adjective clause is whom I admire and modifies the noun politicians. Now let’s look at the sentences a little more closely.
The verb of this clause is describe. The subject is which because it stands for the noun books.
The verb of this clause is admire. The subject of the clause is whom because it represents politicians.
Punctuating Adjective Clauses
Sometimes things get a bit confusing when it’s time to start punctuating adjective clauses. In some cases, commas are necessary and at other times they’re not. How do you know the difference? Nonrestrictive clauses require the use of commas. A nonrestrictive clause doesn’t restrict or limit the noun it is modifying. It just gives extra information about it. For example:
This clause is nonrestrictive because it doesn’t restrict information about Mr. Jones. There is much more to know about him. By placing the clause between commas, it becomes clear that the adjective clause is just giving it added, not essential, information about Mr. Jones. Restrictive clauses do not require the use of commas. A restrictive clause does limit the possible meaning of the subject. For example:
Now the clause is restricted because it is identifying which movies I like best. I don’t like all movies equally well. Because the clause helps identify it isn’t set off with commas. Adjective clauses aren’t difficult to use or identify once you understand a few simple rules. In summary, adjective clauses always contain a subject and verb, begin with a relative pronoun or relative adverb and will answer the questions what kind? how many? or which one?