Grammar | Band 7 Clauses 2 Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

To receive a band 7 for grammar you need to use a range of complex language  effectively. Therefore, it is important for you to understand and use relative clauses accurately.
First we will talk about defining relative clauses, then review non-defining relative clauses. Read the grammar tips and try the interactive practice tasks below to improve your use of this essential band 7 complex language. 
To learn more about a range of complex language, see our other Grammar for Band 7 lessons:
Non-Defining Relative Clauses
Subordinate Clauses
Complex Noun Phrases
Contrasting Clauses with ‘While’
Passive and Active Processes

​What are Defining Relative Clauses?

​Relative clauses function like adjectives as they are used to describe a noun. They follow the noun which they describe.
For example: That is the man who lives over the road from me.

The defining relative clause tells us essential (important) information about ‘the man’.

Exercise 1 

The noun being described in the relative clause can either be the subject or the object of the relative clause. Are the relative clauses in the following sentences subject or object relative clauses?
Example: The man who I spoke to at the party was very funny.
Answer: The man is the object of the relative clause.
Why? Because the subject of the relative clause is ‘I’.

Now try the exercise below.
Hint: Look for the subject after the relative clause ‘who/which/that’

Are these ‘subject’ or ‘object’ relative clauses?

1. The dog which lives next door is very noisy.
2. The man who I spoke to at the party was very funny.
3. The car which we rented was excellent.
4. The man who I met last week is sick today.
5. The computer that I got last week is already broken.
6. The team bought a player who was extremely expensive.
7. The man who brought the cake over was very friendly.
8. The bike which is the best is the most expensive.
9. The woman who got angry often makes trouble here.
10. The technician who I complained about hasn’t come back.

Now let’s review non-defining relative clauses.

What are Non-Defining Relative Clauses?

These clauses are introduced by a relative pronoun and they add non-essential (unimportant)  information about a noun.
​For example: His last painting, which was painted in Amsterdam, sold for over $5 million dollars

​The painting is already defined (it is his last painting) so the non-defining relative clause simply adds extra, less important information about the painting (it was painted in Amsterdam).
Notice that the non-defining clause is separated from the main clause by two commas (,)

Exercise 2

Do the sentences below contain defining or non-defining relative clauses?
1. The cat, which was meowing, was very hungry.
2. The cat which was meowing was very hungry.
3. The apartment which we planned to buy turned out to be too expensive.
4. The apartment, which we planned to buy, turned out to be too expensive.
5. This is a beautiful apartment, which is well located in the city.
6. I strongly disagreed with the people who said the project should be cancelled.


​The cat, which was meowing, was very hungry.

This sentence suggests that there is only one cat. The fact that it was meowing is not very important because we already can identify the cat.
​The cat which was meowing was very hungry.

This sentence suggests that there might be more than one cat, but only one cat that was meowing. The information that the cat was meowing helps us know which cat the sentence is talking about.

Omitting relative pronouns in Defining clauses

​If a defining relative clause is an object clause, then the relative pronoun (who/which/that) may be omitted (deleted). 
​For example:
Mike is the person who I met for lunch. = 
Mike is the person I met for lunch.

Exercise 3

​Click on a word from the box and then click on a gap to paste that word. Choose ​if there doesn’t need to be a word in the gap.

Choose the correct relative pronoun

which   ·  who   ·  X  
Click or touch a word above
1. Have you got the money I lent you?
2. Dave, had been sitting quietly, shouted out the answer.
3. That is the machine converts the waste into useable material.
4. The dog, they bought recently, is very funny.
5. I didn’t receive the letters she said she sent me.
6. The teacher didn’t appreciate the silly comments he made.
7. The old elephant, had lived in the area for a long time, was well known to the villagers.
8. The neighbours have complained about the speakers I bought last week.

Make sure you use relative clauses properly in your speaking and writing. If you have any questions or tips of your own, leave them in the comments section below.