Janet_Busch

Restrictive/Non-restrictive clauses

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What makes a clause a restrictive clause? What is the easiest way to tell whether a clause is restrictive or non-restrictive?

I've sometimes tied myself in knots over this. I read the rules and think I've got it, but there are instances when I just stare at my sentence with a sense of hopeless uncertainty. Any help would be appreciated.

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What makes a clause a restrictive clause?  What is the easiest way to tell whether a clause is restrictive or non-restrictive? 

I've sometimes tied myself in knots over this.  I read the rules and think I've got it, but there are instances when I just stare at my sentence with a sense of hopeless uncertainty.  Any help would be appreciated.

I find some instances difficult to identify, too. Basically, the way that I understand the difference is that a restrictive clause can be considered part of the subject, whereas a non-restrictive clause predicates something of the subject. For instance:

(1) Any man who wears a hat is probably bald.

Here the subject is "any man who wears a hat" or equivalently "all hat-wearing men." Baldness is predicated not of man simply, but of hat-wearing men in particular.

(2) This man, who is wearing a hat, is bald.

Here the subject is man and two characteristics are predicated of him: that he is wearing a hat and that he is bald. The non-restrictive clause is not part of the subject; baldness is not predicated of the hat-wearing man, but of the man.

In many instances, this difference is subtle. But I think it makes sense.

Note that I never read or heard anyone else give an account of the difference between restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. The above is my own account and may very well differ from the traditional one, if there is one.

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What makes a clause a restrictive clause?
A clause refers to something; a restrictive clause narrows the identification which the clause makes, by goin on to identify certain of those existents as being the ones you are referring to. So, "dogs" refers to dogs; the clause "which have long hair" can be combined with it to give you "dogs which have long hair", which identifies Afghans and my ilk, and excludes Chihuahuas and bulldogs. A non-restrictive clause simply provides more information, but does not narrow what is being referred to, for example "dogs, which are mammals". The use of a comma is a useful rule, if people follow that rule, which they don't. In a separate thread, we could discuss the presuppositions of the two clauses "Religious fundamentalists who are terrorists" and "Religious fundamentalists, who are terrorists".

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The use of a comma is a useful rule, if people follow that rule, which they don't. In a separate thread, we could discuss the presuppositions of the two clauses "Religious fundamentalists who are terrorists" and "Religious fundamentalists, who are terrorists".

This is an example of what I run into sometimes, so I would appreciate it if we could address the punctuation.

Is it this:

A. "Religious fundamentalists who are terrorist have caused the death of thousands." = a restrictive clause, not set off by commas (narrows the field of religious fundamentalists I'm talking about; i.e. speaks only about the fundamentalists who are also terrorists).

B. "Religious fundamentalists, who are terrorists, are behind the civil war in Iraq." = a non-restrictive clause, set off by commas (gives parenthetical information about the religious fundamentalists I'm talking about).

Is it the rule that non-restrictive clauses are always set off by commas and restrictive clauses are not?

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Is it the rule that non-restrictive clauses are always set off by commas and restrictive clauses are not?
Your examples and rule are correct. Of course, some people, will insert commas, randomly, which makes it, hard to understand what, they are saying. Another very useful technique is to read the sentence aloud, noting whether it sounds natural or unnatural to have a major pause before the clause. Commas indicate pauses, and I find it even more clear when I pay attention to how I would pronounce the sentence.

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Are both restrictive and non-restrictive clauses adjective clauses modifying the subject?

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Are both restrictive and non-restrictive clauses adjective clauses modifying the subject?
Restrictive clauses can modify any noun-type part of speech (subject, object, indirect object etc), thus "The child(,) who found my wallet should be rewarded" or "I should reward the child(,) who found my wallet". They actually aren't always adjectives ("who found my wallet" is a relative clause, but not an adjective), with the understanding that adjectives (such as "pink", "big", "old") are a specific kind of modifier of nouns. "Adjective" refers to a specific kind of word, which can be placed before the noun (in contrast to a relative clause which must be after the noun). Note that a clause such as "The honest child" can be non-restrictive or restrictive -- either you have in mind a specific child and you are parenthetically noting that the child is honest, or you are picking out the honest child from a group of children. But you can't set the adjective off in parentheses to indicate this difference, i.e. *"The, honest, child..."

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Are both restrictive and non-restrictive clauses adjective clauses modifying the subject?

If you mean modifies the antecedent to which the relative pronoun refers, then yes.

Phyllis Davenport @ REX BARKS

An ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is a DEPENDENT CLAUSE...USED AS AN ADJECTIVE...is introduced by a RELATIVE PRONOUN: (WHO, WHOSE, WHOM, THAT, WHICH). p.58

And

When the ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is NECESSARY to identify the ANTECEDENT of the RELATIVE PRONOUN, the ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is called RESTRICTIVE or ESSENTIAL. It is NOT  set off by commas.

But, when the ANTECEDENT of the RELATIVE PRONOUN is clearly identified WITHOUT the adjective clause, and when the adjective clause merely gives extra information about the ANTECEDENT, the ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is called NON-RESTRICTIVE or NON-ESSENTIAL, and it is set off by commas. p.65

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Restrictive clauses can modify any noun-type part of speech (subject, object, indirect object etc), thus "The child(,) who found my wallet should be rewarded" or "I should reward the child(,) who found my wallet". They actually aren't always adjectives ("who found my wallet" is a relative clause, but not an adjective), with the understanding that adjectives (such as "pink", "big", "old") are a specific kind of modifier of nouns. "Adjective" refers to a specific kind of word, which can be placed before the noun (in contrast to a relative clause which must be after the noun). Note that a clause such as "The honest child" can be non-restrictive or restrictive -- either you have in mind a specific child and you are parenthetically noting that the child is honest, or you are picking out the honest child from a group of children. But you can't set the adjective off in parentheses to indicate this difference, i.e. *"The, honest, child..."

Janet was asking if restrictive and non-restrictive clauses were adjective clauses modifying the subject.

I agree that "who found my wallet" is a relative clause, and its not an adjective; but it is an adjective clause used as an adjective.

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