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Understand Relative Clauses: Defining and Non-Defining

In this worksheet, students practise differentiating between defining and non-defining relative clauses and decide whether to use commas around them or not.

'Understand Relative Clauses: Defining and Non-Defining' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:  Grammar and Vocabulary

Curriculum subtopic:  Extend and Apply Grammatical Knowledge

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

A relative clause is a type of subordinate clause that gives more information about a noun.

The lion, which was very fierce, opened its mouth and roared.

The jockey who wore yellow silks won the race.

 

If you read the above sentences carefully you will see that the first one has commas around the relative clause but the second one doesn't. This is because there are two types of relative clause.

 

A non-defining relative clause gives more information about the noun but it isn't essential to the meaning of the sentence. In the first sentence we could remove the relative clause and the sentence would still make sense.

The lion opened its mouth and roared.

 

A defining relative clause defines the noun, which means it tells us which noun we are talking about. In the second sentence there would have been several jockeys in the race, but it was the jockey in yellow who won it. Commas are not used around defining relative clauses and the sentence would not mean the same thing without the relative clause.

The jockey won the race. (This suggests that there was only one jockey, so the meaning is completely different.)

Read the following sentence and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

My new puppy, who is called Poppy, is really cute.

defining relative clause

non-defining relative clause

Read the following sentences and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

Three girls performed together on their violins. I thought the girl who had red hair was the best.

defining relative clause

non-defining relative clause

Read the following sentence and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

The dog that won first prize at Crufts was a dalmatian.

defining relative clause

non-defining relative clause

Read the following sentence and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

Peter, who is very talented, wants to be a professional musician when he leaves school.

defining relative clause

non-defining relative clause

Read the following sentence and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

My uncle John, who is an engineer, is retiring next year.

defining relative clause

non-defining relative clause

Read the following sentence and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

The car that caused the accident was a mini.

defining relative clause

non-defining relative clause

This time, read the sentence and decide whether commas have been used correctly around the relative clause.

 

Lily, who was very shy, blushed as she went up onto the stage to collect her award.

correct

incorrect

Are the commas correct around this relative clause?

 

The whole class took the exam but only the pupils, who had done extra revision, passed.

correct

incorrect

Are the commas correct around this relative clause?

 

There are four boys in the family. The boy, who is the second-oldest, is my best friend.

correct

incorrect

Are the commas correct around this relative clause?

 

Charlotte's auntie Jane, who is a hairdresser, is coming round to cut her hair this evening.

correct

incorrect

  • Question 1

Read the following sentence and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

My new puppy, who is called Poppy, is really cute.

CORRECT ANSWER
non-defining relative clause
EDDIE SAYS
The clause gives more information about the puppy but it isn't essential to the meaning of the sentence.
  • Question 2

Read the following sentences and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

Three girls performed together on their violins. I thought the girl who had red hair was the best.

CORRECT ANSWER
defining relative clause
EDDIE SAYS
This time the relative clauses tells us which girl we are talking about, so it is a defining relative clause.
  • Question 3

Read the following sentence and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

The dog that won first prize at Crufts was a dalmatian.

CORRECT ANSWER
defining relative clause
  • Question 4

Read the following sentence and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

Peter, who is very talented, wants to be a professional musician when he leaves school.

CORRECT ANSWER
non-defining relative clause
  • Question 5

Read the following sentence and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

My uncle John, who is an engineer, is retiring next year.

CORRECT ANSWER
non-defining relative clause
  • Question 6

Read the following sentence and decide whether the underlined clause is a defining relative clause or a non-defining relative clause.

 

The car that caused the accident was a mini.

CORRECT ANSWER
defining relative clause
  • Question 7

This time, read the sentence and decide whether commas have been used correctly around the relative clause.

 

Lily, who was very shy, blushed as she went up onto the stage to collect her award.

CORRECT ANSWER
correct
EDDIE SAYS
This is a non-defining relative clause so commas are correct.
  • Question 8

Are the commas correct around this relative clause?

 

The whole class took the exam but only the pupils, who had done extra revision, passed.

CORRECT ANSWER
incorrect
EDDIE SAYS
This is a defining relative clause as it tells us which pupils passed, so it is an essential part of the sentence and commas should not be used.
  • Question 9

Are the commas correct around this relative clause?

 

There are four boys in the family. The boy, who is the second-oldest, is my best friend.

CORRECT ANSWER
incorrect
  • Question 10

Are the commas correct around this relative clause?

 

Charlotte's auntie Jane, who is a hairdresser, is coming round to cut her hair this evening.

CORRECT ANSWER
correct
EDDIE SAYS
If Charlotte had several auntie Janes then it could be a defining relative clause telling us which of her auntie Janes is coming round, but it is more likely that she has only one auntie Jane and so the clause is just giving us more information about the aunt.
---- OR ----

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