Stage 7 Stage 8

 

Son muchos los idiomas que formulan una oración relativa con un pronombre especial llamado “pronombre relativo” (español: que, quien, cual, cuando, donde y cuanto), por nexos subordinantes, o sencillamente mediante una concreta formación sintáctica.

 

En inglés los pronombres relativos son: who (personas); which (animales o cosas); whose (vínculo o posesión) y that (personas, animales o cosas y las palabras everything, nothing, something o anything). En sustitución de los pronombres relativos se emplean a veces los adverbios relativos que hacen más sencilla la comprensión de la oración: when (tiempo); where (lugares) y why (causas, razones o motivos). Algunos pronombres y adverbios relativos pueden omitirse siempre y cuando actúen como objeto en la oración; estos son: who, that, wich, when y why.

 

 

Con esto como base, damos paso al contenido gramatical concerniente a las denominadas “Relative Clauses”.

 

This week´s blog is about defining and non-defining relative clauses. Before I speak about them, let me explain what a relative clause is.

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A relative clause is a clause that we use to describe a noun. It basically has the same function as an adjective. For example we can say “I have a blue bike” or we can use a relative clause and say “I have a bike which is blue”. We put a relative clause immediately after the noun it describes.

We use the words ‘who’, ‘which’ and ‘that’ at the beginning of a relative clause. These words are called relative pronouns. We use ‘who’ for people, we use ‘which’ for things and animals and we use ‘that’ for people, things and animals. For example we say “I know a man, who lives on a boat”, “She has a dog which is brown and black” and “He lives in a house which/that is very big”.

Now that we know what a relative clause is, let us take a look at defining and non-defining relative clauses. A defining relative clause identifies who or what we are speaking about, whereas a non-defining relative clause just gives us more information about who or what we are speaking about.

A defining relative clause is essential in a sentence because we need it in order to know who or what someone is describing. A non-defining relative clause is not essential in a sentence because it just adds more information about who or what we are describing, therefore you could leave it out of the sentence and the sentence would still make sense and it would still be clear who or what we are describing. We cannot leave out a defining relative clause because we need it in order to make it clear who or what we are talking about.

A non-defining relative clause is separated from the main part of the sentence by commas. A defining relative clause is not separated from the main part of the sentence by commas. We separate a non-defining relative clause from the main part of the sentence by commas because it is additional information, whereas we don´t separate a defining relative clause from the main part of the sentence by commas because it is essential information which is needed to clarify who or what we are speaking about.

Look at this sentence. “The museum which we visited on our tour of Barcelona is one of the oldest museums in Europe”. This sentence uses a defining relative clause; “which we visited on our tour of Barcelona”. This is defining because it tells the listener which museum you are speaking about, in this case the one you visited on your tour of Barcelona. If we took out the relative clause and we said “the museum is one of the oldest in Europe”, the first question the listener would ask would be “which museum are you talking about”? Therefore it is very important to include the relative clause because it makes it clear for the listener that you are talking about the one you visited on your tour of Barcelona.

Look at this sentence. “The natural history museum of London, which we visited on our tour of London, is one of the oldest in Europe”. In this sentence we use a non-defining relative clause; “which we visited on our tour of London”. This is non-defining because it is not making it clear which museum we are talking about. The fact that we gave the name of the museum is enough for the listener to understand which museum we are speaking about, therefore the relative clause is non-defining because we are just adding information about it, in this case that we visited it on our tour of London. If we took out the non-defining relative clause and said “the natural history museum of London is one of the oldest in Europe”, it would still be clear that that is the museum which we are speaking about.

The most important thing to understand is that we need to have a defining relative clause in order to know exactly who or what the speaker is describing whereas we don´t need to have a non-defining relative clause to to know who or what the speaker is describing.

Another important point to understand is that we can use the word ‘that’ instead of ‘who’ or ‘which’ in defining relative clauses but not in non-defining relative clauses. For example we can say “the town that I live in is beautiful” but we cannot say “Barcelona, that I live in, is beautiful” because in the first sentence we use a defining relative clause but in the second sentence we use a non-defining relative clause The first sentence uses a defining relative cvvlause because we must clarify which town we are speaking about but the second sentence uses a non-defining relative clause because it does not clarify the place I am speaking about, therefore we must say “Barcelona, which I live in, is beautiful”. The most important information in this sentence is that Barcelona is beautiful, the fact that I live in Barcelona is just additional information.

Here are some other examples of defining and non-defining relative clauses:

“My brother who lives in Barcelona is rich”. (You have more than one brother)

“My brother, who lives in Barcelona, is rich”. (You have only one brother)

“The car which is parked outside the building is mine”. This is defining because you are telling the listener exactly which car is yours.

“My car, which is blue, is very expensive”. This is non-defining because the relative clause “which is blue” does not tell the listener anything necessary about your car, the main message is that it is very expensive, the colour is just more information.

“The computer which is broken is an Apple iMac”. This is defining because you are pointing out which computer is an Apple iMac. Perhaps you are in a room full of computers and you want to tell the listener which computer is an Apple iMac, you can do so by telling him it is the one that is broken.

“My computer, which I use every day, is an Apple iMac”. This is non-defining because you are not identifying which computer you are talking with the relative clause. The fact that you said “my computer” tells the listener which computer you are talking about.
Seguro que ahora tenemos más clara la diferencia que hacen en inglés entre ‘on time’ y ‘in time’, y cómo podemos utilizar cada uno de ellos en nuestro entorno diario.
Aprende este y otros muchos recursos gramaticales en inglés en uno de nuestros cursos de inglés en Barcelona. Llevamos más de 30 años enseñando inglés con uno de los métodos más rápidos y fáciles para entender y hablar inglés en poco tiempo: el método Callan.

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En Callan School, estudiar inglés no es aburrido. La gramática es importante, por eso explicamos todos estos conceptos gramaticales en estos artículos, pero para aprender inglés, lo más importante es que hables mucho, aprendas expresiones, la pronunciación, … y eso es lo que vas a trabajar en cada clase de tu curso de inglés, online o presencial, en grupo reducido o individual, intensivo o no.

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G. Harmman

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