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Teaching Adjective Clauses In All Their Forms

Adjective clauses in all their forms are often difficult for students to understand and even more difficult for teachers to explain. However, with a little bit of organization and a systematic approach, it is possible to master them.

As they say, a good place to begin is at the beginning. So, let me start by stating that there are four basic types of adjective clauses, and for instructional purposes it's helpful to separate them into two groups.

Group One Sentences Group Two Sentences
Subject-Object Subject-Subject
Object-Object Object-Subject

The rationale behind this division is that when it's time to reduce these clauses, all the group one sentences reduce in the same basic way into a past participle adjective, and all the group two sentences reduce in the same basic way into a present participle adjective. This will become more evident later.

Before looking at group one sentences, it's important to note that adjective clauses begin with something called a relative pronoun, and like all pronouns, relative pronouns simply replace a noun.

Relative Pronoun Replaces
who a person (subject)
whom a person (object)
which a thing
that a person or thing
where (for group one only) a place
when (for group one only) a time
whose (possessive) a person, place, or thing

It's also important for students to be familiar with the definition of a clause. The easiest way to explain a clause is that it's a subject and verb for an active clause or an object and passive verb for a passive clause. So, anytime we have one of these two combinations, we call it a clause.

   For example:  

Besides being either active or passive, clauses are also divided into two main types. These are independent clauses and dependent clauses. As its name suggests, an independent clause can be a complete sentence all by itself. In other words, it doesn't need to be attached to any other clauses to be a good sentence. The sentences in the example above are both independent clauses. On the other hand, a dependent clause cannot be a complete sentence all by itself, and must be attached to an independent clause.

   For example:  

Every good sentence must have at least one independent clause, but can have a variety of different types of dependent clauses, and adjective clauses are one form of dependent clause. Armed with this information, we are now ready to tackle the first group of adjective clause sentences.


page last modified: May 19, 2016

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