Subjects in Relative Clauses

A relative clause (or adjective clause) is a description of a noun with a subject and verb. They often (but not always) have a relative pronoun – who, which, that.

For example:

The bridges that cross this river are quite beautiful.

The car which he sold me is very old.

That’s the boy who broke the window.

He ate all of the apples I bought yesterday.

You can see that:
  • If the relative clause is after the main subject, the main verb will come after it.

The cake we made is for his birthday.

The men who talked to us wanted to ask for directions.


  • The relative pronoun matches the noun before it.

A child who goes to bed at 11pm doesn’t get enough sleep

Children who go to bed at 11pm don’t get enough sleep.


  • You don’t need the relative pronoun if the verb in the relative clause has a different subject.

The books (that) he wrote are scary.

The author who wrote The Shining is Stephen King.

(you must use who because it’s the subject of wrote)


Common errors are:
  • Forgetting to use a singular or plural verb.

People who is are focused on a goal is are more likely to succeed.

A good leader is someone who listen listens to others.


  • Using a double subject after the relative clause

Americans who travel to other countries they are more open to new ideas.

A movie that has a big budget, it is not always successful.


  • Missing relative pronoun that is the subject of the adjective clause

I bought a car ______has bluetooth. (which)

There are many people _______are afraid of ghosts. (who)  

You can also delete the relative pronoun and a BE-verb, but you have to delete both.

There are many people afraid of ghosts.


Editing: Underline every verb in each sentence, and circle its subject. Look for double subjects, double verbs, or verbs without subjects.

Practice editing with this worksheet (answers included)

RelativePronouns (pdf)


Teachers: Download a printer-friendly copy of this page

SubjectsRelativeClauses (pdf)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s