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University of VictoriaIntroduction to IT English
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Introduction to Adjective Clauses

When defining different aspects of information technology, it is important to remember the various descriptions for people and things. In order to describe something in detail, we often use adjectives or adjective clauses.

  • An adjective is a word that describes a noun.
  • An adjective clause modifies a noun. A clause has a noun and a verb.

Let’s compare adjectives and adjective clauses.

Adjectives

An adjective is a word that describes or modifies a noun. Modifies means changes, so an adjective changes the meaning of a noun by giving extra information.

Generally, an adjective comes before a noun.

I have a
yellow
mouse.
A yellow mouse
 
adjective
+
noun

I have a
yellow
wireless
mouse.
 
adjective
+
adjective
+
noun

By adding the adjectives “yellow” and “wireless”, we know more about the mouse. Our image of it has changed because we have more information about what the mouse looks like and what kind of features it has.

Adjective Clauses

An adjective clause describes or modifies a noun. A clause has a noun and a verb.

Generally, an adjective clause comes after a noun.

I know a
man
who is a computer programmer.
 
noun
+
adjective clause

I know a
man
who is a computer whiz.
 
noun
+
adjective clause

I know a
man
who works for Apple Computers.
 
noun
+
adjective clause

There are two kinds of clauses: independent and dependent.

An adjective clause is a dependent clause because it cannot be a sentence by itself. It is only part of a sentence.

This is an independent clause because it is a complete sentence.

I know a man.

This is a dependent clause because it is not a complete sentence.

who is a computer programmer

Using “Who” and “That” in an Adjective Clause

Example Explanation

[The woman is smart.] + [She works with me.] =

The woman who works with me is smart.

“The woman” and “she” are the same person. “She” is a subject pronoun that refers to “the woman”.

In this example sentence, the adjective clause comes right after the noun it modifies.

“That” and “Who” as Subjects

Example Explanation

These two sentences have the same meaning.

The programmer who works with me is intelligent.

The programmer that works with me is intelligent.

That and who can both be used as the subject of an adjective clause.

“That” or “Which” Refer to People or Things

Example Explanation

These two sentences have the same meaning.

Software is a set of instructions that tells a computer what to do.

Software is a set of instructions which tells a computer what to do.

That or which can refer to either people or things.

Omitting the Object Pronoun

Example Explanation

This sentence is a combination of two sentences:

The programmer that I met was clever. =

The programmer was clever. +
I
met
him.
   
subject
verb
object

All three sentences are correct.

The programmer that I met was clever.
The programmer who(m) I met was clever.
The programmer that I met was clever.

An object pronoun can be omitted from an adjective clause and the sentence will have the same meaning.