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Relative clauses

The relative clause. It is an essential piece of grammar to master

because it doesnt just help your band score for range of grammar, it
can also significantly improve your writing.

Why relatives matter

The first point to understand is that relatives are not just another bit of
grammar to show off they will actually improve your writing. How so?
They help you do 3 important things:

link short sentences together too many short sentences is a bad

thing, linking sentences is good for cohesion
be more precise by defining your terms precision is almost always a
good thing
add more information in a concise way concision too is almost always
a good thing
And yes examiners do tend to notice if you have used relatives and that is
good for your range of grammar.

Understanding the different types of relative

There are two main types of relative clause: defining and extra
information relatives. It is important to distinguish between them as
they have slightly different grammar.

The defining relative

This relative defines a noun an important idea for IELTS and

academic writing. So:
In spite of this, there are two major points to make in favour of
promoting a senior member of staf who has been working in a
corporation for a long time.
in this example we know which type of member of staff is being referred

The extra information relative

This relative does what it says on the tin: it gives more information
about the noun information that is not necessary to the meaning of
the sentence. So
Some companies, especially those which have fewer employees, may
decide to implement their own promotion policies.
In this example, the sentence Some companies may decide to
implement their own promotion policies. is complete and the relative bit
just adds more information.
You should also noter that it is possible to use this type of relative to
refer to whole clauses and not just nouns/noun phrases. So in
Some companies have a policy of only promoting on the basis of
seniority, which can be appropriate especially in smaller businesses.
which refers to the whole clause Some companies have a policy of only
promoting on the basis of seniority,

Getting the grammar right

If you want to use relatives, and you do, it is important to get their
grammar correct. These are the essential points:

Grammar Notes
Who, that and which
Who refers to people and which to things. That much is easy. That is a
little harder. In defining relatives, it can be used both for people and
things. In extra information relatives, you cannot use it.
Leaving out the relative pronoun
Sometimes, we can leave out the relative pronoun in defining relative
clauses. This happens when the relative is the object. So, in
However, it does not seem appropriate for a company to promote every
member of staf [that] it has employed for a long time.
That can be left out. However, in
However, it does not seem appropriate for every member of
staf that has employed for a long time to be promoted.
That cannot be left out because it is the subject of the verb to be
You always need to use commas in extra information relatives.
Sometimes it helps to think of these commas as brackets (), as all you
are doing is giving non-essential info of the type you might use
brackets for. So

It is also true that some employees,who may perhaps be less

ambitious and well-motivated, may not wish the extra responsibility that
comes with promotion.
,who may perhaps be less ambitious and well-motivated, is put in
commas, while that comes with promotion is not because it
defines responsibility.

Dont forget when, where and why

Often when people think of relatives, they stop at who, that and which.
This is a mistake. Some of the most useful relatives
arewhen, where and why as they allow you to write about times, places
and reasons. I particularly recommend the combinationthe reasons
One of the reasons why some people do not receive promotion is that
they lack ambition.

Some problems
1. Dont use to many relatives
Relatives are quite complex for a reader to process/understand. It is not
a good idea to fill your essay with too many relatives as it will be harder
to understand. I also suggest trying to avoid using more than one
relative per sentence.

2. Keep the relative as close as possible to the noun it refers to

The idea is that the relative pronoun should immediately follow the
word it refers to.

3. Be careful with prepositions and word order

There is a strange grammatical practice when people attempt to place
prepositions before the relative even when there is no need to and it

is more natural to leave the preposition after the verb. Consider these 2
This can happen if the company to which they move is a competitor in
the same field.
This can happen if the company which they move to is a competitor in
the same field.
For me, the first sentence is very awkward and it is best to avoid this

4. Whos and whose

These are two very different words. Whos is short for who is or who
has. In IELTS writing you are unlikely to want to use it as we avoid short
forms except in informal writing. Whose , which sounds identical, is of
who or of which.
5. Who and whom
Pretty much the only time you will want to use whom is when it comes
directly after a preposition such as to or for.