Lenguaje, Gramática y Filologías

Relative Clauses y That-Clauses



“A relative clause is a subordinate clause that modifies a noun phrase, most commonly a noun. A relative clause can also modify a pronoun or a noun phrase which already contains a modifier”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_clause).

Relative clauses are introduced by a class of pronouns (words used in place of a noun) called relative pronouns that make reference to an antecedent.

Relative pronouns begin the relative clause and connect that clause to another noun that precedes it in the sentence, the antecedent. They are the following ones: who, whom, whose, whoever, whomever, which, whichever, that, what, whatever.


1. This is the book that is difficult to understand.

2. The house which is in that side of the street was built in 1865.

3. He is the man who called you last night.

4. The girl to whom I spoke yesterday is in the corner.

The antecedent is the noun that is modified by the relative clause and it can do any function in the main clause.


1. This is the book that is difficult to understand.

2. The house which is in that side of the street was built in 1865.

3. He is the man who called you last night.

4. The girl to whom I spoke yesterday is in the corner.


There are two types of relative clauses: defining or restrictive and non-defining or non-restrictive.

2.1. Defining/restrictive relative clause.

It is used to identify or restrict reference of a noun and it cannot be separated from the rest of the sentence by commas or pauses.


1. The table which I bought last Monday is in the kitchen.

2. I told them the story that you told me yesterday.

3. The boy who was the best in the competition won a gold medal.

4. That girl to whom Mark is speaking is my classmate.

2.2. Non-defining/non-restrictive relative clause.

It is used to add additional information about the noun, whose identity or reference is already established.


1. My dog, which is two years old, is my best friend.

2. This unit, that is the most important of the subject, must be finished.

3. My father, who was born in 1945, is the oldest man of the room.

4. She was looking for Peter, who is his boyfriend.


“Complement clauses are dependant clauses that complete the meaning of a verb, adjective or noun. They are also called nominal clauses, because they often occupy a noun phrase slot in a clause, such a subject, or predicative. They can also complete the meaning of an adjective rather than a verb. In this case, a predicative adjective controls the complement clause”. (Page 308 of the Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Longman).


There are four types of complement clauses: that-clauses and wh-clauses, which are finite complement clauses; to-clauses and ing-clauses, which are non-finite complement clauses. We can distinguish them by their complementizer, the word that begins the complement clause.

We are focusing on that-clauses.


A that-clause is a finite complement clause that is marked for tense or modality. It has a subject and it can omit the complementizer (that).


1. He thinks that you are right.

It completes the meaning of the verb and functions as direct object.

2. He thinks you are right.

The absence of the complementizer doesn't change the structure of the clause.


6.1. Post-predicate that clause.

It normally relates the speech and thoughts of humans and the subject of the main clause usually refers to a person. They are normally controlled by a verb. Here is the list of the most common controlling verbs:

Mental/cognition verbs: know, think, guess, see, find, believe, mean, suppose, feel, realize, hear, hope, assume.

Speech act verbs: say.

Other communication verbs: show, suggest, ensure, indicate.


1. I think he does too much in the job.

It is a mental verb which reports one's own thoughts.

2. He saw that it was only a shadow.

It is a mental verb which describes characters' mental states.

3. Mary said that it was a beautiful place to live in.

It is a speech act verb very commonly used to report what someone said.

4. War histories show that peace sometimes doesn't state in our hearts.

It is an other communication verb which is often used with a non-personal subject and the idea expressed in the that clause is not overtly attributed to anybody.

6.2. Subject predicate that-clause.

It is introduced by a copular verb, usually the verb to be. This construction often describes a problem of some kind, such as The problem is that you are always out of home; or presents reasons, results or conclusions, such as Our conclusion is that it is necessary to buy new material; or presents accepted truths or facts, such as The truth is that he is good at this game.

6.3. Extraposed that-clause.

It often involves a main clause that reports an attitude without attributing it to anybody. The verbs that can control extraposed that-clauses are: to be, seem, appear, follow or verbs in passive voice.


1. It is a wonder that he's got a good business.

The controlling verb is a copula in combination with a predicative noun phrase.

2. It appears that I will be expected to it.

This copular verb can also take this pattern.

3. It follows that aspirins are the best solution for a cold.

This verb is used in an intransitive sense with extraposed that-clauses.

4. It is said that he was the best of the competition.

This passive verb can also introduce extraposed that-clauses.

6.4. Embedded that-clause.

That-clauses often occur in complex series, using various kinds of coordination and embedding.


I think [that the food [that they do is nice] but [that it is a bad idea [that he took on this service]]].


This is all the information you have to know to be able to tell the difference between relative clauses and that- clauses, but the best key is to realise that the relativizer of relative clauses need to refer to an antecedent, while the complementizer of that-clauses do not need it.







The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar.

Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English.

Enviado por:Lucía
Idioma: inglés
País: España

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