Grammar Restrictive Clause: What Is a Restrictive Clause? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Restrictive Clause: What Is a Restrictive Clause?

Understanding restrictive clauses is a valuable skill in applying English grammar. With this information, you’ll gain further insight into how sentences are constructed for clarity.

The Anatomy of a Restrictive Clause

A restrictive clause is a dependent clause that modifies a word (noun). The information it gives is necessary for description or identification. In other words, removing a restrictive clause will typically change a meaning within the sentence. For that reason, restrictive clauses are sometimes referred to as essential clauses.

This might be a tricky concept for some at first, so let’s look at a restrictive (essential) clause in a sentence:

The pizza that has the thick golden crust is Sicilian.

The restrictive dependent clause is that has the thick golden crust. Note that we could take those words away and still have a fully functional sentence that would look like this:

The pizza is Sicilian.

However, by removing the descriptive clause, we may alter the understanding of which pizza we’re talking about. If three different pizzas are in front of us, how will we know which one is Sicilian if we’re unsure?

Let’s consider another example:

The woman who won the lottery wanted to remain anonymous.

In this example, who won the lottery is the restrictive clause. If we remove it, we will be left with:

The woman wanted to remain anonymous.

The sentence becomes less descriptive. We might also have ambiguity if our context includes several women. Which of those women wishes to be anonymous?

You may notice that restrictive clauses often begin with words such as that, which, or who. These words are common identifiers of dependent clauses, including restrictive ones.

Pop Quiz

Drawing from what you understand about restrictive clauses, identify the restrictive clause in each sentence.

  1. I brought the dog that I adopted last week to the vet.
  2. That’s the house where George grew up with his family.
  3. Janna is a friend who will always be loyal.
  4. According to Jake, this is the restaurant that has the world’s best meatballs.
  5. Venice is one vacation destination that you could never forget.

Hint: take away a clause and see if it changes the meaning or clarity of the sentence.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. I brought the dog that I adopted last week to the vet.
  2. That’s the house where George grew up with his family.
  3. Janna is a friend who will always be loyal.
  4. According to Jake, this is the restaurant that has the world’s best meatballs.
  5. Venice is one vacation destination that you could never forget.

 

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