An adjective clause (a group of words with at least one subject and one
verb) is a subordinate or dependent clause that functions as an adjective. This
type of clause answers the question, Which one? Relative pronouns, such as
who, whom, which, and that, begin adjective clauses. At times, words such
as where or when can also begin adjective clauses. If you delete the adjective
clause from a sentence, you will still have a full (though less informative)
In the following sentences, the adjective clause is underlined. Notice the
word that begins the clause.
This extremely intelligent geologist, who is also a talented juggler,
has been asked to visit the State Assembly later this month.
The street that you live on is scheduled to be repaved next month.
The movie director, whom you read about last week, will be
promoting her new film throughout Europe.
There are essentially two types of adjective clauses—restrictive and unrestrictive
➲ A restrictive (or essential) adjective clause offers essential
information that is necessary to complete the sentence’s thought.
An example of this is, ‘‘The trophy that was presented to you is
enormous.’’ Here, the adjective clause that was presented to you restricts
the information to just that trophy.
➲ An unrestrictive (or nonessential) clause simply offers more
information about the noun it describes. In the sentence, ‘‘The trophy,
which was made in Canada, was presented to you,’’ the adjective clause
which was made in Canada is nonessential to the sentence. It just offers
more information about the trophy.