ESL Writing Lesson - Using Non-Defining Relative Clauses
Defining and non-defining relative classes are important elements to focus on when trying to help students improve their writing skills. This lesson focuses on reviewing the differences between defining and non-defining clauses, and then goes on to a writing exercise which employs non-defining relative clauses to expand a basic story outline.
Aim: Using non-defining clauses to improve writing skills
Activity: Two exercises: 1 - adding commas to sentences, 2 - expanding a text with non-defining clauses
Level: Intermediate to upper-intermediate
Using Non-Defining Clauses to Improve Writing
In defining relative clauses, the information given is essential to the understanding of the sentence.
They helped a man who was injured.
In these first example, the defining clause beginning with 'who' tells us which man we are talking about. In the second example, the defining clause beginning with 'which' defines what kind of houses I like. Defining relative clauses make clear which person or thing we are speaking about.
In non-defining relative clauses, the information is not essential to understanding the sentence, but gives additional information.
Mr. Brown, who enjoys going to the theater, has been invited to join our club.
In the first example, Mr Brown is defined (the man who has been invited to join our club). The fact that he enjoys going to the theater gives us additional, but not necessary information. In the second example, the particular house is named and therefore defined, the year in which the house was built is additional information.
Punctuation is very important in non-defining clauses. A comma is placed before the relative pronoun and at the end of the clause.
Decide whether the following clauses are defining or non-defining clauses. Insert commas where necessary.
Work together to expand the following story by using as many non-defining relative clauses as you can. Feel free to make a funny story!
A man called Peter took an airplane to New York to visit his sister. When he arrived at the airport, a old man asked him a question. Peter gave a short reply and the man invited him for a drink. Peter accepted, and after he had the drink, caught the airplane to New York. When he got to his sister's apartment, his sister invited him into the living room. As he entered the room, he was surprised to see the same man.
~ Kenneth Beare