That / Which

Add modifying clauses for inanimate nouns

Little car on big car
 

 

Adjective vs. Modifying Clause (Relative Clause)

ADJECTIVE

An adjective is placed before the noun it modifies. 

SUBJECT MODIFIER NOUN

Jack sells

new

cars.

He collects

old

autos.

He prefers

economical

vehicles.

MODIFYING CLAUSE

A modifying clause is placed after the noun it modifies.   Either that or which is used with an inanimate noun.  That is used informally with a personal noun.

SUBJECT NOUN MODIFYING CLAUSE

Jack sells

cars

that / which are new.

He collects

autos

that / which are antique. (old)

He prefers

vehicles

that / which are hybrid.

 

antique (adj.) – old, especially items wanted by collectors

economical (adj.) – having the quality of saving money

hybrid – powered by more than one source (e.g., gas and battery) 

vehicle (n.) – a means of transportation

 

 

 

 

 

Forming a That–Clause

Replacing the Subject or Object Noun

 

 

 

That / Which

THAT AS THE SUBJECT

That or which replaces the repeated noun in the modifying clause. The that-clause is placed directly after the noun it modifies. (A modifying clause removes unnecessary words.)

The car   is economical to drive. The car is small. (noun)
The car   is economical to drive. It is small. (pronoun)

  SUBJECT of MOD CLS  

The car

The car is small. 
  arrow-most of the changes to most of which 

is more economical to drive

 

that / which

 

The car

that / which is small

is more economical to drive

THAT AS THE OBJECT

That or which replaces the repeated noun in the modifying clause. That is placed at the beginning of the modifying clause and placed directly after the noun it modifies.

The car is economical to driveI want to buy the car.
The car is economical to driveI want to buy it.

  OBJECT of MOD CLS  

The car

I bought the car
        arrow-most of the changes to most of which 

is more economical to drive

 

that / which

 

The car

that / which I bought
that / which I bought

is more economical to drive

 

Add commas if the clause adds extra information that is not essential to identifying who the person is. (a non-identifying, non-restrictive clause) See Some or All

 

 

 

 

 

That-Clause

Clause Position

 

 

 

Modifying the Subject of the Main Clause

SUBJECT of MOD CLS MODIFIES SUBJECT OF MAIN CLAUSE

Below, a that-clause modifies the subject noun of the main clause.  That has taken the place of the subject pronoun in the modifying clause.

SUBJECT MODIFYING CLAUSE  

The car

that   is small 
subject–verb–adjective
 

is green.

The seats

that are inside 
subject–verb–preposition    

are leather.  

OBJECT of MOD CLS MODIFIES SUBJECT OF MAIN CLAUSE

Below, a that-clause modifies the subject noun of the main clause.  That has taken the place of the object pronoun in the modifying clause. Optionally omit that in these clauses.

SUBJECT MODIFYING CLAUSE  

The car

(that) you drive 
object–subject–verb  

is green.

The seats

(that) you sit on 
object–subject–verb 
 

are leather.  

 

complement – a word, phrase or clause which is necessary in a sentence to complete its meaning
verb + complement – elements required to complete the meaning of the clause

 

 

 

Modifying the Object of the Main Clause

SUBJECT of MOD CLS MODIFIES OBJECT OF MAIN CLAUSE

Below, a that-clause modifies the object noun of the main clause.   That is the subject pronoun in the modifying clause.

  OBJECT MODIFYING CLAUSE

Jack drove 

the car 

that is small. 
subject–verb–adjective 

Jack likes  

the seats

that are leather. 
subject–verb–noun    

OBJECT of MOD CLS MODIFIES OBJECT OF MAIN CLAUSE

Below, a that-clause modifies the object noun of the main clause.   That is also the object pronoun in the modifying clause. Optionally, omit that in these clauses.

  OBJECT MODIFYING CLAUSE

Jack drove 

the car 

that he liked. 
object–subject–verb 
 

Jack likes  

the seats

that he ordered. 
object–subject–verb 
 

 

tiny (adj) – very small

tryout (v.) – test drive

Related pages: That vs. Which using commas  | Who / Whom using that for people

 

 

 

 

 

 

Object Pronouns

Omitting That

 

 

 

When can you omit that?

SUBJECT PRONOUN OF CLAUSE

When that takes the place of the subject noun/pronoun of a clause, it cannot be omitted (deleted).

The phone that woke you is here.
               — The phone woke you —  (subject)  

The number that is in my book was incorrect.
               The number is in my book —  (subject)  

The ringtone that sounds like a frog is funny.
            The ringtone sounds like a frog —  (subject)

OBJECT PRONOUN OF CLAUSE

When that takes the place of the object noun/pronoun of a clause, it can optionally be omitted (deleted). 

The phone  (that) you dropped is here.
              — you dropped the phone—  (object)

The number  (that) you gave me was incorrect.
              — you gave me the number  (object)

The ringtone  (that) I heard was hilarious.
              — I heard the ringtone (object)

 

hilarious (adj.) – very, funny

ringtone (n.) – the sound a phone makes when receiving a call or a text message

 

 

 

How do you know if that is an object pronoun?   (This is a method for simple clauses.)

FOLLOWED BY A VERB

If the relative pronoun is followed by a verb, then the relative pronoun is probably the subject of the clause. It cannot be deleted.

The car that drives the best — is the sports car.
               — that → verb —      (It's likely the subject.)

The engine which looks small — is powerful.
                     — which → verb —      (It's likely the subject.)

The radio that is included — is not very good.
                  — that → verb —      (It's likely the subject.)

FOLLOWED BY A SUBJECT NOUN / PRONOUN

If the relative pronoun is followed by a subject noun or pronoun – I, we, he, she, they – then that or which is probably the object and it can be deleted.

The car –– that we spoke about — is a sports car. 
                that → we… —        (It's likely the object.)

The engine –– which she prefers — is powerful. 
                    which → she… —        (It's likely the object.)

The radio that you like — isn't included.
                    — that → you… —      (It's likely the object.)

 

apologetic (adj.) – sorry; giving of apologies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That-Clause

Punctuation

 

 

 

An Identifying vs. Nonidentifying Clause

IDENTIFYING CLAUSE

no comma usedA clause that identifies the noun before it (tells you which one) is not set off with commas. Which or that is used. No comma(s) is/are used.

The car  that Jack bought is a hybrid

Jack prefers the tires (that) you recommended.

NONIDENTIFYING CLAUSE

use a commaA clause that adds extra, nonidentifying information is set off with comma(s).  Which (not that) is required in a non-identifying clause.  Commas

The Prius,  which Jack bought, is a hybrid car

Jack prefers the Michelin tires, which¹ you recommended. 

An identifying clause adds information or narrows the noun to a specific one, group or lot.  The clause helps by telling us which one. No commas are used.  It is also called restrictive, essential , or necessary clause. See That vs. Which   Some or All.

A nonidentifying clause adds extra information about a noun already identified by other means, for example, by name, by shared knowledge or context. The clause, a comment, is set off with commas (before and, if necessary, after the clause). It is also called nonrestrictive, nonessential,  or unnecessary clause. See Commas – comments.

¹An object relative pronoun cannot be omitted(left out) from a nonidentifying clause.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

 ERROR

*A car is very economical that holds just two passengers.     

*The phone is available that I want to buy.

*The car that I want to buy  it   is economical to drive.

*The guy which was sitting next to me in the bus was from Ghana.

FIX 

A car that holds just two passengers is very economical. 
move overMove the clause forward, next to the word it modifies.

The phone that I want to buy is available. 
move overMove the that -clause next to (after) the word it modifies. 

The car that I want to buy [it] is economical to drive. 
Delete it. Otherwise, there are two pronouns referring to the car.

The guy who was sitting next to me in the bus was from Ghana.  Use who as a personal pronoun.

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Traditional and Linguistic Description

Advanced

 

 

 

TRADITIONAL / ESL DESCRIPTION LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

Relative Clause. A dependent clause that modifies an antecedent and is most often expressly introduced by a relative pronoun such as which, who, whose, or that. (Garner 886)

Adjective Clause – An adjective clause modifies a noun.
Adjective clause pronouns – Who is used for people; which is used for things; that is used for both people and things.  (Azar 13-1)

Relative Clauses.  Clauses beginning with question words (e.g. who, which, where) are often used to modify nouns and some pronouns – to identify people and things, or to give more information about them.  (Swan 494)

Relativisation "A relative clause contains within its structure an overt or covert element that relates it anaphorically to an antecedent." (Huddleston 12 §3.1)

  • I agree with [what you said.]  [NP]
  • They agree with the suggestion [that you wrote].   [Clause]

 

Relative Clause vs. Content Clause

  • They agreed with the suggestion that you wrote. [relative]
  • They agreed with the suggestion that you be more specific.  [content]

 

 

REED-KELLOGG DIAGRAM  — SUBJECT TREE DIAGRAM — SUBJECT

Jack drove the car* [which you gave him  __*]

(Car is the antecedent for which. Which is the object of the relative clause.)

Relative Clause

Tree - relative clause

Grammatical Functions: Subject – (Subj) the agent of the action; Predicate/Predicator – (Pred) the action or change in state; Complement – Comp  –  an element required to complete the subject and predicate; Adjunct – an element not required by the verb, a modifying word, phrase, clause; Supplement – a comment in the form of a word, phrase or clause that is loosely related to the central idea of the sentence.

Lexical Categories "Parts of Speech": N – noun / pronoun; NP – noun phrase; V – verb; VP – verb phrase; Adj – adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; Adv – adverb; AdvP – adverb phrase; P – preposition; PP – prepositional phrase; Detdeterminers –  noun markers (e.g., articles, quantifiers, demonstratives, possessives); Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator; Interj – interjection; INF – infiniitve: GER – gerund; Nonfinite: an infinitive or gerund clause

 

 

Resources 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

A Tiny Car

smart car
 

 

Add a modifying clause to the sentence.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or the "check 1-8" button at the bottom.

 

1.
   

2.
  
averages (v.) – gets a particular amount over a period of time; "usually gets"

3.

4.

5.



vertically (adv.) –  at a 90° angle

6.

7.

8.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Booking a Flight

booking a flight
 

 

Read for Errors

TRAVELER:  Can you tell me when the next flight leaves that goes to Los Angeles.

AGENT:   That would be the 6 o'clock flight.

TRAVELER:  No, the flight which I want leaves in thirty minutes.

AGENT:   I believe the five o'clock flight what you want is full

AGENT:   The flight that it leaves at six o'clock has open seats.

TRAVELER:   OK.

AGENT:   Do you want a seat that is next to the window or on the aisle?

TRAVELER:  I'd like a window seat please. Do you have one that is in the tail section? (Can you omit that?)

AGENT:   Let me see… Yes, I do.  OK.  The boarding pass that I am giving you is for seat number 29C. (Can you omit that?)

TRAVELER:  Thank you.  This is a trip which I am looking forward to — going home!  (Can you omit  which?)

boarding pass (n.) – ticket for flight

omit (v.) – leave out, delete

open (adj.) – available seats; not occupied

tail section (n.) – back of the airplane

 

 

 

Decide whether the use of the modifying clause is correct or incorrect.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or the "check 9-16" button at the bottom.

 

9.
TRAVELER: Can you tell me when the next flight leaves that goes to Los Angeles.
   

10.
AGENT: That would be the 6 o'clock flight.
TRAVELER:  No, the flight which I want leaves in thirty minutes.
   

11.
AGENT:   I believe the five o'clock flight what you want is full.
   

12.
AGENT:   The flight that it leaves at six o'clock has open seats.

   

13.
TRAVELER: OK.
AGENT:   Do you want a seat that is next to the window or on the aisle?
   

14.
TRAVELER:  I'd like a window seat please. Do you have one that is in the tail section?   
AGENT:   Let me see.
   

15.
AGENT:   Yes, I do. OK. The boarding pass that I am giving you is for seat number 29C. (Can you omit that?)
   

16.
TRAVELER:  Thank you.  This is a trip which I am looking forward to — going home!  (Can you omit  which?)
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Alternative Energy Cars

car design
 

 

Read for Errors

Creative engineers around the world have designed a number of cars they are powered by some unusual sources.

We were amused when we learned about a car that it was powered by old French-fry oil. But can you imagine a car that is powered by excrement what you put in a toilet? The designers admit that it stinks (smells bad).

Another engineer, a farmer in England, produced a car that ran on apple fuel.  Rather than making apple cider, he made methane fuel!

One sporty group made a car. It was powered by pedals (leg power). They also made another one which was powered by the arms of the four passengers. It was much like rowing a boat but without water.

Another research group made a vehicle had a jet engine. It was fast but not very practical. 

The same was true for a wind-powered car. She worked very well but only on a windy day and only in one direction!

There are a number of car designs which they run on solar power — only on sunny days and for short distances.

Some "techies" from Silicon Valley designed their car to run on the same kind of battery is used in a laptop — a lithium-ion battery pack.

The design whom people have really wanted is a hydrogen-powered car. That is right! The dream car is one will run on pure water and emit clean air. 

admit (v.) — reluctantly tell the negative point(s)

alternative (adj.) — other choices

bio-diesel (n.) — fuel produced from vegetable oils and animals fats

cider (n.) — alcoholic drink made from apple juice

creative (adj.) — original or imaginative thinking

emit (v.)  — give off; release into the air

emission (n.) – exhaust, gases that cars release back into the air

ethanol — a fuel mostly produced from corn

excrement (n.) — feces, a more formal word for shit, poo, or crap

methane (n.) — a colorless, odorless, gas

pedals (n.) — the part of a bicycle that you push with your feet

row (v.) — a method of moving a small boat by a long paddle or an oar

techies — people involved in computer technology (informal)

vehicle (n.) — a means of transportation such as a car

 

 

 

 

Edit for errors and join clauses when possible.

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or the "check 17-28" button at the bottom.

 

17.
Creative engineers around the world have designed a number of cars they are powered by some unusual sources.


18.
We were amused when we learned about a car that it was powered by old French-fry oil.


19.
But can you imagine a car that is powered by excrement what you put in a toilet? The designers admit that it stinks (smells bad).


20.
Another engineer, a farmer in England, produced a car ran on apple fuel.  Rather than making apple cider, he made methane fuel!


21.
One sporty group made a car. It was powered by pedals (leg power).


22.
They also made another one which was powered by the arms of the four passengers. It was much like rowing a boat but without water.


23.
Another research group made a vehicle had a jet engine. It was fast but not very practical. 


24.
The same was true for a wind powered car.  She worked very well but only on a windy day and only in one direction!


25.
There are a number of car designs which they run on solar power — only on sunny days and for short distances.


26.
Some "techies" from Silicon Valley designed their car to run on the same kind of battery is used in a laptop — a lithium-ion battery pack.


27.
The design whom people have really wanted is a hydrogen-powered car.


28.
That is right! The dream car is one will run on pure water and emit clean air.