30 Nov 2014

An adjectival dependent (subordinate) clause

A dependent clause is a group of words in the sentence with its own subject and verb that cannot stand alone and usually starts with a subordinator.

He came home. // independent clause

After he came home // dependent clause, has no meaning on itself

He prepared dinner after he came home.

After he came home, he prepared dinner.

Please notice that we usually separate dependent clause with a comma when it starts a sentence, and obviously we need an independent clause to combine with a dependent part to create a complex sentence.

A subordinate clause can act as an: adjective, adverb and noun in a sentence.

An adjectival clause is called a relative clause with essential and non-essential information.

Adjective clauses modify a noun or pronoun and answer the questions: which one? what kind? how many? They usually begin with a relative pronoun or with a relative adverb. Relative pronouns normally function in two ways: they join the clause to the word it modifies and they function as part of the clause. If they do not function as a part of the clause, they may be dropped.

Blessed is he, // independent clause with a poetical inversion
who comes in the name of the Lord. // subordinate clause - adjectival clause, the whole clause defines 'he', 'who' is a relative pronoun and also a subject of the clause.

he is // subject - verb of an independent clause
who comes // subject- verb of a dependent clause

The house (that) you saw yesterday was sold. // a relative pronoun can be dropped in less formal writing.

Adjective clause is sometimes called an embedded clause as in many cases we can find it in the middle of the sentence, sometimes separating the subject of a sentence and its main verb.

Peter, who used to work as a teacher, loves old cars.

The main clause is: 'Peter loves old cars' with dependent and non-essential part is: 'who used to work as a teacher'.

Joana was the first person whom he talked to.

It is an essential part of the sentence, an adjectival clause which begins with a relative pronoun 'whom', and 'whom' is an object of the preposition 'to'. Even though it is a correct sentence, some critics would call it a dangling preposition.

In formal writing it would be better to say:
Joana was the first person to whom he talked.

In even less informal English it may sound:
Joana was the first person he talked to. // an example of a dropped relative pronoun.

In modern English, there are only five relative pronouns:

who  whom  whose  that  which (apart from 'that' other words may take endings: -ever and -soever).

A special kind of adjectival clauses begins with a relative adverb when a noun denotes a time or place is modified by an adjective clause.

The most common such adverbs are: where, when and why; some sources consider these subordinating conjunctions.

Here again some differences in formal and informal English and in some grammarian schools.

where / at which

I was yesterday in a restaurant, where the food was excellent. // informal adjectival clause
I was yesterday in a restaurant, at which the food was excellent. // formal adjectival clause, object of the preposition 'at'.

when // on which

It was a day when I discovered the cosmos. // informal
It was a day on which I discovered the cosmos. // formal

why // for which

Do you know the reason why the train is delayed? // informal
Do you know the reason for which the train is delayed? // formal

Therefore, if we want to be very strict, we may conclude that an adjective clause is a relative clause beginning with a relative pronoun, which itself may be dropped when it does not not function as a part of the clause.