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Las cláusulas relativas en inglés están formuladas mediante un pronombre especial llamado “pronombre relativo” (who/whom, which, whose y that) que, en ocasiones, pueden verse sustituidos por los adverbios relativos (when, where y why).

En este espacio de hoy, repasaremos las “defining relative clauses”, (especificativas), cuya función es identificar o definir de qué persona/cosa se está hablando; al tiempo que abordaremos las “non-defining relative clauses”, (explicativas), cláusulas estas que aún formándose también por un pronombre relativo, y presentando información adicional, no es de carácter esencial para identificar de qué o quien hablamos.

Con esto por delante, damos paso al espacio gramatical concreto de las “relative clauses”.

In last month´s blog I spoke about relative clauses. I explained that we use a relative clause to describe a noun. It has the same function as an adjective whereby it describes nouns.

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We also use a relative clause to make what we say shorter. For example I could say “I am reading a book. My mother gave me the book”. Here you see that I have used two sentences to make my statement. However, not only is this a little longer than necessary but it is also not very natural to say. Therefore I would use a relative clause and say “I am reading a book, which my mother gave me”. This is shorter and much more natural to say. By using a relative clause in cases such as this one we are saving ourselves from giving more than one sentence and from saying more than we need to.

In this month´s blog I am going to talk about defining and non-defining relative clauses. Firstly, it is important to understand when and how we use defining and non-defining relative clauses and what exactly they do.

A defining relative clause identifies the person or thing that we are speaking about. In order to make it clear who or what we are speaking about we use a defining relative clause. We do not seperate a defining relative clause from the rest of the sentence by using commas.

A non-defining relative clause simply gives us more information about who or what we are speaking about, but it isn´t used to identify the person or thing that we are talking about. We seperate a non-defining relative clause from the rest of the sentence by using commas. We do this because it isn´t essential information.

Let us first look at some defining relative clauses and the reasons why they are defining. In the sentence “Maria has two daughters who are very good at dancing”, we use a defining relative clause. The fact that the relative clause “who are very good at dancing” is not seperated from the rest of the sentence by commas means that it is defining. This means that Maria has more than two daughters but only two of them are very good at dancing.

Now look at a very similiar sentence. “Maria has two daughters, who are very good at dancing”. We seperate the relative clause from the first part of the sentence. This means that the most important information is the fact that she has two daughters and the extra information is the fact that they are very good at dancing. this sentence communicates that she has only two daughters and both of them are very good at dancing.

Take a look at the following sentence: “My brother who lives in Rome is a very rich man”. This sentence tells us that I have more than one brother, but I am specifying that one of them is very rich and I am identifying which one is very rich by telling you that it is the one who lives in Rome. I do this by using a relative clause but not seperating it from the rest of the sentence with commas.

If I said “my brother, who lives in Rome, is a very rich man” I would be communicating that I only have one brother and he is a very rich man. The fact that I mentioned where he lives is not very important in this sentence because it doesn´t help to identify the person I am speaking about, it simply adds more information to what I said. Basically, in this sentence I am telling you that my only brother is a rich man and I have also decided to tell you where he lives. Therefore this is a sentence with a non-defining relative clause.

The first sentence is different because it uses the place where the person lives to distinguish him from any of my other brothers.

Look at this sentence: “John’s car, which is red, is a big car. Notice that the relative clause is seperated from the main part of the sentence by commas therefore we know that it is non-defining. We should also be able to realise it is non-defining because the colour of the car is not important. The main message is that it is big. Now look at this sentence: “The car which I bought yesterday is red”. This sentence uses a defining-relative clause. It is defining because the clause identifies which car I am talking about.

 

G. Harman

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