Preparing for the 'oposiciones': defining/non-defining relative clauses

Relative clauses can be defining or non-defining.

- A defining relative clause (also called restrictive relative clause) defines or restricts its antecedent in such a way that if the clause were omitted the meaning of the sentence would be incomplete: 
I have a friend who plays the violin - Tengo un amigo que toca el violín.

In a defining relative clause, the relative pronoun can be the subject or the object of the clause:
The couple who live next door  have eight children - La pareja que vive en la casa de al lado tiene ocho hijos (here who is the subject of the relative clause)
That's the man (who/that) I saw in the park yesterday - Ese es el hombre que vi en el parque ayer (here who or that is the object of the relative clause)
As you can see, a relative clause of this type comes directly after its antecedent and is not separated from it by a comma.

Defining relative clauses are introduced by the following relative pronouns:
who or that when the antecedent is a person
which or that when the antecedent is a thing or an animal (also who if the animal in question is the character in a story):
Ann is the woman (that/who) I love - Ann es la mujer que amo
Titanic is the film (that/which) my wife likes best Titanic es la película que le gusta más a mi mujer

Who has two other forms: whom, for the objective case in formal English or after a preposition, and whose, for the genitive case:
Katherine Hepburn was an actress (whom) everybody adored - Katherine Hepburn era una actriz a la que todo el mundo adoraba
Mr Anderson is the man for whom I work -  Mr. Anderson es el hombre para quien trabajo
He's an architect whose designs have won international praise - Es un arquitecto cuyos diseños han conquistado elogios internacionales.

In defining relative clauses, when the relative pronoun is not the subject of its clause, it can be omitted, given rise to what are called contact clauses (also zero relative clauses), generally the most common option in informal style:
Ann is the woman I love
Titanic is the film my wife likes best
Mr Anderson is the man I work for

Whose is never omitted.

Even if the relative pronoun is not the subject of the relative clause, it can be omitted when the verb is in the continuous form:
The boy playing in the garden is my grandson - El niño que está jugando en el jardín es mi nieto.

The zero relative pronoun is also found exceptionally in some other cases in very colloquial language: It was Simon murdered her - Fue Simon quien la asesinó.

There are other words, such as where, when or why which can also function as relative pronouns:
That's the house where I was born - Esa es la casa donde nací.
That's the day when my wife and I fell in love - Ese es el día cuando/en el que mi mujer y yo nos enamoramos
Unemployment is the reason why so many workers have to emigrate - El paro es la razón por la que tantos trabajadores tienen que emigrar.

Seehttp://sanchezbenedito.blogspot.com.es/2013/06/cuando-se-usa-that-y-cuando-which.html for the preference between who, that or which.

- Non-defining or non-restrictive relative clauses give additional information about the antecedent, but parenthetically, so that even if that information were omitted, the meaning of the main clause would still be complete:
Matthew, who(m) I first met in Liverpool, has sent me a postcard - Matthew, a quien conocí en Liverpool, me ha enviado una postal.
My neighbour, who I played tennis with every Sunday, has just moved to Scotland - Mi vecino, con quién jugaba al tenis todos los domingos, acaba de mudarse a Escocia.
As you can see, we use a comma to separate the non-defining relative clause from its antecedent.

The pronouns generally used in this type of relative clause are:
who, if the antecedent is a person, and which, if it is a thing or an animal (also who if the animal in question is the character in a story):
My son, who is ony six, already speaks English fluently - Mi hijo, que sólo tiene seis años, habla ya inglés con soltura/fluidez.
I've just received the contract, which I haven't had time to read yet - Acabo de recibir el contrato, que no he tenido tiempo de leer todavía.

That is generally not used in non-defining relative clauses, though some examples are found in very colloquial English:
The meeting, that we never wanted anyway, finished without an agreement - La reunión, que de todas maneras nunca quisimos, terminó sin acuerdo.

The antecedent of a non-defining relative clause can be an entire clause:
Carla has invited me to her birthday party, which is very nice of her - Carla me ha invitado a su fiesta de cumpleaños, lo cual es muy amable por su parte.


Combine the two clauses by means of a relative pronoun. Use a zero relative pronoun whenever possible:

1.- You made an offer. We cannot accept your offer.
2.- Jane is very good at biology. Jane's mother is a physician.
3.- The city seems to be abandoned. The city is usually crowded with people.
4.- I went to the restaurant. I had read about the restauranr in the newspaper.
5.- You're sitting on a bench. The paint on the bench is still wet.
6.- The blonde is sitting at the desk. The blonde is Mr Winter's secretary.
7.- Kate is only nine years old. Kate plays the piano brilliantly.
8.- The girl is my sister. I was talking to the girl.
9.- Sidney is the largest city in Australia. Sidney is not the capital of Australia.
10.- Mary works in our office. Mary's husband is a plastic surgeon.


1.- We cannot accept the offer you made.
2.- Jane, whose mother is a physician, is very good at biology.
3.- The city, which is usually crowded with people, seems to be abandoned.
4.- I went to the restaurany I had read about in the newspaper.
5.- The paint on the bench you're sitting on is still wet.
6.- The blonde sitting at the desk is Mr Winter's secretary.
7.- Kate, who is only nine years old, plays the piano brilliantly.
8.- The girl I was talking to is my sister.
9.- Sidney, which is the largest city in Australia, is not its capital.
10.- Mary, whose husband is a plastic surgeon, works in our office.

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