ESL Term:

Restrictive Clauses

ESL/EFL Glossary: A Guide to applied linguistics terminology.


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restrictive clauses: Adjective clauses that are essential to the meaning of a sentence. If you take the restrictive clause out of the sentence, the meaning of the sentence changes. For example:

I wanted to go to a place where I had been in my youth.

The man who was looking for you earlier is over there.

Without the adjective clause in the first sentence, we don't know where I wanted to go.  The meaning changes if we leave out this clause.  In the second example, the adjective clause tells us who is over there. Again, if we leave this clause the meaning of the sentence is different.

Note: Restrictive clauses are NOT puncuated with commas. Restrictive clauses can be contrasted to nonrestrictive clauses, which are punctuated with commas and are not essential to a sentence.