The Adjective Clause
Recognize an adjective clause when you see one.
An adjective clause—also called an adjectival or relative clause—will meet three requirements:
- First, it will contain a subject and verb.
- Next, it will begin with a relative pronoun [who, whom, whose, that, or which] or a relative adverb [when, where, or why].
- Finally, it will function as an adjective, answering the questions What kind? How many? or Which one?
The adjective clause will follow one of these two patterns:
Relative Pronoun or Adverb + Subject + Verb
Relative Pronoun as Subject + Verb
Here are some examples:
Whose big, brown eyes pleaded for another cookie
Whose = relative pronoun; eyes = subject; pleaded = verb.
Why Fred cannot stand sitting across from his sister Melanie
Why = relative adverb; Fred = subject; can stand = verb [not, an adverb, is not officially part of the verb].
That bounced across the kitchen floor
That = relative pronoun functioning as subject; bounced = verb.
Who hiccupped for seven hours afterward
Who = relative pronoun functioning as subject; hiccupped = verb.
Avoid writing a sentence fragment.
Read the examples below. Notice that the adjective clause follows the word that it describes.
Diane felt manipulated by her beagle Santana, whose big, brown eyes pleaded for another cookie.
Chewing with her mouth open is one reason why Fred cannot stand sitting across from his sister Melanie.
Snarling and skidding on the smooth tile, Oreo and Skeeter, Madison's two dogs, competed for the hardboiled egg that bounced across the kitchen floor.
Laughter erupted from Annamarie, who hiccupped for seven hours afterward.
Punctuate an adjective clause correctly.
Essential clauses do not require commas. An adjective clause is essential when you need the information it provides.
Look at this example:
The vegetables that people leave uneaten are often the most nutritious.
Vegetables is nonspecific. To know which ones we are talking about, we must have the information in the adjective clause. Thus, the adjective clause is essential and requires no commas.
Read this revision:
Broccoli, which people often leave uneaten, is very nutritious.