An adjective clause (also known as a relative clause) does the same job as an adjective – it tells more about a noun. We use adjective clauses when we want to be more specific or tell more than just regular adjectives can do. Adjective clauses are placed after the noun they are modifying.
Sometimes, we can say the same thing with an adjective and an adjective clause.
- I want to live in a big house. (Regular Adjective)
- I want to live in a house that is big. (Adjective Clause)
These sentences have the same meaning. However, sometimes there is not one adjective to describe something. Look at this example.
- I want to stay at a hotel.
This sentence does not give us a lot of information. We can add more information about the hotel using an adjective clause.
- I want to stay at a hotel that is next to the beach with an infinity pool.
There is no single adjective that means "next to the beach with an infinity pool".
Let's see some common ways to use adjective clauses.
1. We often use adjective clauses after a noun at the end of a sentence. When we are talking about things or place, we can use "that" or "which".
Note: English speakers use "that" more.
- America is a country that is located south of Canada.
- She likes stories that have a surprising ending.
- They want to stay in a hotel that has an outdoor swimming pool.
- The Eiffel Tower is a place that many tourists go to take pictures, but many French people avoid because there are too many tourists.
- I want to eat something which is hot and spicy.
It is also possible to use "where" for places. After "where" we need to add a new subject.
- I want to go to a country where there is delicious food.
- She lived in a place where you could buy fresh fruit every morning.
If there is no new subject, then use "that".
- I want to live in a place where I can spend a lot of time outside.
- I want to live in a place that has many parks.
2. We can also use adjective clauses at the beginning or middle of a sentence. They just need to come after a noun. Again, we use them to give more information.
- The machine broke down. (What machine?)
- The machine that is located next to the door broke down.
Here are some more examples.
- The boy that failed the test is crying.
- The house that is next to the factory caught on fire.
- The shirt that was $500 a week ago is now $300.
3. We can use "who" or "that" when the noun is a person.
- I know a woman who has 50 cats.
- I know a woman that has 50 cats.
- The man who is wearing the red hat is my brother.
- The man that is wearing the red hat is my brother.
Here are some more examples.
- Police officers are people who catch bad buys and help keep order.
- She wants to meet a man who is funny, tall, and has a good job.
- A doctor is a person that helps sick people.
- The man who is sitting next to Mark is my boss.
- Anyone who wants to help can help.
- The people who came to the concert were very excited.
4. When "who", "that", or "which" is the object, then we can leave it out. If this is too hard to remember (and many English learners think it is) then never leave out those words. If we include "who", "that", or "which" we are never wrong.
- The woman who I wanted to see was gone.
- The woman I wanted to see was gone.
The woman is the object. "I" is the subject and the person doing the action (the action in this sentence is "to see").
- The dress which she bought at the new store was expensive.
- The dress she bought at the new store was expensive.
"She" is doing the action of buying. "The dress" is the object that was purchased.
"Whom" can be used instead of "who" if "who" is the object.
Note: "Whom" is considered very formal and not used a lot. Most people just use "who".
- The people whom I invited to the party are my friends.
5. We can use adjective clauses after many different nouns.
- The day that I met her was the best day of my life.
- The reason that she didn't come was that she was sick.
- The idea that our company cannot get any bigger is mistaken.
When the noun is "reason" we can use "why" instead of "that".
- The reason that I don't like her is that she isn't nice.
- The reason why I don't like her is that she isn't nice.
- My family the reason that I work.
- My family is the reason why I work.
Adjective clauses can help us be more specific and help our language sound natural and intelligent. However, these are difficult and take time to learn how to use correctly. Practice using them in your writing and speaking and before you know it, you will be a master at using adjective clauses. Learn to speak better English and improve your English grammar by simply doing this basic practice exercise. First, complete the sentences with your own answers, and then practice making your own sentences. Finally, try using this grammar in real life.
I want to visit a place that _______________.
She wants to eat something that _______________.
They want to live in a house which _______________.
I like books that _______________.
He wants to watch movie that _______________.
We stayed at a hotel that _______________.
I bought a phone that _______________.
A doctor is a person who _______________.
A soldier is a person who _______________.
A chef is a person who _______________.
A computer programmer is a person who _______________.
Spaghetti is a food that _______________.
The woman who _______________ is _______________.
The man who _______________ was _______________.
The house that I will buy is _______________.