General Writing and Grammar Help/relative clause

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Question
Dear Ted,

Can you please help me to understand the term - “relative clause”.

I think that I understand correctly that a “relative clause” is a special type of “subordinate clause”.  My problem is that I have learned in the past that there are three types of ”subordinate clauses” – adjective clause, adverbial clause, and noun clause.   But, this list does not included “relative clause”.  

Can you please tell me if a “relative clause” is a fourth type of subordinate clause?    

Or, is a “relative clause" another name for "subordinate clause" and can also be either an adjective clause, adverbial clause, or noun clause?

Thank you so much.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

Can you please help me to understand the term - “relative clause”.

I think that I understand correctly that a “relative clause” is a special type
of “subordinate clause”.  My problem is that I have learned in the past that
there are three types of ”subordinate clauses” – adjective clause, adverbial
clause, and noun clause.   But, this list does not included “relative clause”.  

Can you please tell me if a “relative clause” is a fourth type of subordinate
clause?    

Or, is a “relative clause" another name for "subordinate clause" and can also be
either an adjective clause, adverbial clause, or noun clause?

*** I tried to find a website with an explanation that was both clear and comprehensive.  The problem I ran into is that various terms are used by different grammarians.  I was confused by what I was reading.  Adding more confusion as an answer to your question would not have been good for you.  SO. . . . I decided to write my own explanation.

CLAUSES -- There are just TWO basic kinds of clauses.

The first is the independent clause, sometimes called the main clause.  Every complete sentence MUST HAVE one independent clause.

The second is the dependent clause, sometimes called the subordinate clause.  A sentence does NOT need this kind of clause.

DEPENDENT/SUBORDINATE CLAUSES -- There are THREE types.  Every clause of this nature has a subject and a predicate, but it cannot stand alone, like independent clauses can.  In other words, a dependent/subordinate clauses written by itself and not attached to a dependent/main clause is called a "sentence fragment."

The NOUN CLAUSE -- This clause serves in the same way as a single noun  does.  It can be the subject, direct object, indirect object, predicate nominative, or object of the preposition.

The ADVERBIAL CLAUSE -- This clause operates in the same way as single adverbs do.  It modifies the verb of the main/dependent clause and answers such questions as HOW?  WHEN?  WHERE?  TO WHAT EXTENT?  WHY?

The ADJECTIVAL CLAUSE -- This kind of clause is also called the RELATIVE CLAUSE.  It functions in a sentence as a modifier of a noun or pronoun in the main/dependent clause.
If there is NO noun or pronoun [antecedent] in the main/dependent clause for an adjectival [adjective] clause to modify, the clause is usually said to be "dangling."  The word "relation" is important for adjectival clauses.  They MUST be RELATED to a noun or pronoun in the main/dependent clause.  Therefore, an adjective clause is also called a "RELATIVE clause."

In summary, there are just TWO kinds of clauses, main and dependent.  Dependent clauses come in THREE varieties:  adjective, adverb, and noun.

The brief answer to your question is that, although there are just two types of clauses, subordinate/dependent clauses come in three flavors.

Check out these websites for more information.  

kinds of clauses

http://grammar.about.com/od/c/g/clauseterm.htm

*** You will find a "list" of various kinds of clauses at this site.  Actually, I find it misleading, because what comprises the LIST is "functionality."  Please don't get hung up on such terms as "comment clause."

http://grammar.about.com/od/rs/g/relativeclterm.htm

http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/relativeclause.htm

*** For "fun" exercises, use this site:  

http://www.chompchomp.com/exercises.htm

*** I really enjoyed doing the dangling or misplaced modifier section.  Some of the example are hilarious.

Ted  

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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