English Grammar - Advanced

Relative Clauses & Pronouns

We saw in the first relative pronoun section that there are various relative pronouns that we can use to join sentences.

Now we will consider two different types of relative clauses. What is the difference between these two sentences:

My sister who lives in Rome is a teacher.
My sister, who lives in Rome, is a teacher.

There doesn't seem to much of a difference! In the second sentence, there are a pair of commas as the information in bold is extra. It's not important to understanding which sister. This means that in the first sentence, the person has more than one sister and only the one in Rome is a teacher. In the second sentence, the person has only one sister and, extra information, she is a teacher.

The relative clause in the first sentence in called a defining clause as it defines, it tells us exactly which person or thing we are talking about. The relative clause in the second sentence is called a non-defining clause as it only gives us extra, non-crucial information.

Look at these other examples:


We tried that restaurant which you told us.
People who spit in the street make me sick.
Jobs that are interesting and pay well are hard to find.

In these sentences, without the relative pronouns, we don't know which restaurant, which people or which type of job.


We tried Ristorante Italia, which you told us about.
Danish people, who are blond and tall, speak a wonderful language.
My job, which I've had for ten years, was hard to find.

In these sentences, though, we don't need the extra information given to us by the relative clause. We know it is Ristorante Italia, Danish people and "my" job.

One easy way of seeing this difference is to see if the sentence makes sense if you take away the relative clause:

We can't say: People make me sick.
But we can say: Danish people speak a wonderful language.

The Causative

We use the causative "have" when we ask someone to do something for us. Look at these two sentences:

I cut my hair yesterday. It was a disaster!
I had my hair cut yesterday. Do you like it?

In the first, the person tried to cut his own hair - in front of the bathroom mirror we can imagine. In the second the person asked someone else, probably a professional hairdresser, to cut his hair for him. Look at these other examples:

I finally had my leaking roof repaired last week.
They must have their car's exhaust fixed. What a noise!

Here is the structure we use:

Have followed by Object followed by Past Participle

I'm having my wisdom teeth taken out tomorrow.
She's had her nose altered I think.

We can also use get instead of have but this is more informal English.

You need to get your car fixed before the holidays.
I must get this knee of mine seen to by the doctor.


Inversion is a way of reversing the usual or expected word order to bring emphasis to a sentence, to make it more negative, to make it stronger, more dramatic. Compare these two sentences:

I have never seen such a large cat!
Never have I seen such a large cat!

You can see the effect of inverting the subject/verb and bringing the frequency adverb to the start of the sentence. Here are some similar examples.

Rarely had he been spoken to in such a way.
Never had he known about the child and it was a huge shock to him.

Apart from these adverbs, there are other time expressions which are often used in this way.


Hardly had he entered the room when she left.
No sooner had he asked for silence than one of the student laughed loudly.
Scarcely had he opened the front door when the phone rang.

The words "so" and "such" also employ inversion for dramatic effect.


So fat was the cat that they went to see a specialist vet.
Such is the age of the tree that local police are worried it will soon fall down.

Conditional sentences can become far more formal sounding when inversion is used.


Were I to win the lottery, I would buy a new dictionary.
Had he known about the fire, he wouldn't have mentioned it to her.

Note: Be careful not to use inversion too much. Its use has a very special meaning, either to formalise or dramatise statements. Its overuse, particularly in conversation, is not advised.

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