Grammar | Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses: Zero or Two Commas?

Hello everyone! It is Ms Celina again! Today, I will be focusing on restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. Do you know that whether a clause is restrictive or not will affect the punctuation used? Also, do you know when to use “which” and “that”?

Grammar | Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses: Zero or Two Commas?

What are Restrictive Clauses?

Restrictive Clauses give essential and important information about someone or something (the noun in the sentence). It usually comes immediately after the noun and it provides information that is necessary for us to understand what or who is being referred to (Cambridge Dictionary).

Relative pronouns such as who, that, whom, whose, which are used to introduce the restrictive clause. It is not separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

For example:

Grammar | Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses: Zero or Two Commas?

If we remove the restrictive clause, the sentence becomes:

Grammar | Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses: Zero or Two Commas?

It is still structurally correct. However, its meaning would be different from that of the original sentence with the restrictive clause. The original sentence identified the specific group of children who were begging for water (that is a piece of essential information) while the sentence without the restrictive clause did not. With the restrictive clause, readers are able to know who is being referred to clearly.

Let’s look at another example:

Grammar | Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses: Zero or Two Commas?

In the example above, the clause in brown is a restrictive clause because it provides important information that helps readers to know specifically which workers are the ones who are likely to be promoted.


What are Non-restrictive Clauses?

Non-restrictive clauses give extra information about the person or thing. It is not essential or necessary information. It is not necessary to understand who or what is being referred to (Cambridge Dictionary).

Relative pronouns who, which, whose or whom are used to introduce the non- restrictive clause. It can be separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

For example:

Grammar | Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses: Zero or Two Commas?

The non-restrictive clause ‘who is my neighbour’ is actually an additional piece of information and not essential information. Therefore, we put commas to separate the rest of the sentence. If we remove the clause, it does not affect the meaning of the sentence.

Grammar | Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses: Zero or Two Commas?

Let’s look at some more examples:

Grammar | Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses: Zero or Two Commas?

Take note that when commas are used, they need to be used in a pair. A non-restrictive clause with only one comma will be penalised.

Grammar | Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses: Zero or Two Commas?


That vs. Which

We can use both ‘that’ and ‘which’ for restrictive clauses referring to things but not people.

We cannot use ‘that’ for non-restrictive clauses and we do not put a comma before the word ‘that’.

Grammar | Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses: Zero or Two Commas?

To summarise, restrictive and non-restrictive clauses help readers to understand whether a piece of information about the noun is essential to the meaning in the sentence.

Restrictive clauses will not require commas while non-restrictive clauses will require a pair of commas. Take note that when commas are used, they need to be used in a pair. Finally, “which” and “that” have slightly different uses as shown below:

Grammar | Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses: Zero or Two Commas?

I have come to the end of my post. I hope you have benefitted from it. See you next time!


 

 

 

 

 

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Ms. Celina

Ms Celina is a dedicated educator, committed in nurturing students with various abilities. She believes in the joy of learning and collaborative effort. In her years of experience, she has helped every child maximise his or her learning potential, instil positive values and the love of the English Language in them.

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