Understanding Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses are very useful in providing additional information to your readers.

At a certain point in your life, you should have learned how to clearly identify a simple, complex and compound sentence.

If you never have or have forgotten, don't worry.

However, before you can truly understand these clauses, you may need to click here to provide yourself with a refresher on how to identify and how to write a sentence.

If you have a clear understanding of how sentences are formatted, then these types of clauses are simple to learn.

What are adjective clauses?

Basically, it is a dependent clause that modifies the noun. On another page on this site, I go in depth on dependent clauses. Click here to get more information on independent and dependent clauses.

A modified noun is simply a noun (person, place or thing) that has additional information attached to it. Simply put, an adjective clause is a group of words that describe the noun.

Here is an example of two simple sentences revised with an adjective clause:


The children are on the bus.

They are going to the zoo.

You can combine the two sentences above by using a modifier. Read the tips below to understand how modifiers work.

Revised Example: The children who are on the bus are going to the zoo.

The clause is italicized above. Notice how it provides additional information, and it modifies the noun, which is “children”.

Here are some tips on identifying adjective clauses:

  • They are positioned right next to the noun in the sentence, since it's modifying it.
  • They usually have one of the following modified/relative pronoun words: which, whose, whom, that, or who. They may also have one of the following modified/relative adverb words: when, where, or why.
  • Commas are sometimes used before and after it, if the clause is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. However, this does not always apply. Click here for the comma rules and to learn when you should and shouldn't use a comma.

Here are a few sample clauses(please note these are not written as complete sentences):

Example: whose big green eyes pleaded for another piece of cake [Subject=eyes, Verb=pleaded, relative pronoun/clause=whose]

Example: that bounced across the kitchen floor [Verb=bounced, relative pronoun/clause=that]

Example: who cried non-stop for an hour [Verb=cried, relative pronoun/clause=who]

Now here are the sample clauses from above written as a complete sentence:

Example: The little girl whose big green eyes pleaded for another piece of cake was not allowed to have any.

Example: The red ball that bounced across the kitchen floor hit John on the foot.

Example: The little girl who cried non-stop for an hour finally fell asleep.

By following the tips above, it should be easy to decipher where these clauses are and how to use them.

**NOTE: Adjective clauses are not complete sentences; they are fragments. They do not express a complete thought and cannot stand alone.

For more information on how to write a sentence and avoid fragments, click here. Remember adjective clauses must be connected to a main or independent clause in order for it to be a complete sentence. To learn how to connect them to independent clauses, click here. Now you have a complete understanding of these clauses. Think you can identify one? Click here to see if you can complete these English grammar exercises.

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