What Is a Restrictive Clause? (with Examples)

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What Is a Restrictive Clause? (with Examples)

A restrictive clause is a clause which functions as an adjective to identify the word it modifies. A restrictive clause is essential for the intended meaning. A restrictive clause is not offset with commas. For example:
  • The boy who broke the window is at the door.
  • (The shaded text is a restrictive clause. It describes The boy. More importantly though, it identifies the boy. It is not just additional information. It is essential for understanding.)
Restrictive clauses contrast with non-restrictive clauses. Look at this example of a non-restrictive clause:
  • Simon Baxter, who is a deep-sea fisherman, is training to be a lion tamer.
  • (The bold text is a non-restrictive clause. It describes Simon Baxter, but it does not identify him. It's just additional information about him. You could have put brackets around this text or even deleted it.)

Examples of Restrictive Clauses

Here are some more examples of restrictive clauses:
  • I went to London with the man who lives next door.
  • (The clause identifies the man.)
  • The window which you cracked is over 300 years old.
  • (The clause identifies the window.)
  • The window that you cracked is over 300 years old.
  • (With a restrictive clause, you can use that to replace which.
    Which, that, and who are called relative pronouns. With a restrictive clause, you can often remove the relative pronoun entirely.)

  • Sonia, the request which you wrote yesterday was rejected.