Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Exploring coordinate relative clauses (aka connective relative clauses)

I recently came across this term, which was new to me, in a rather old, but rather good grammar book - Advanced English Practice by BD Graver (Oxford). I can only find one reference to it on the Internet, at the also rather good Polseguera.com, a Catalan website for English learners (links below).
Update - since writing this, I've discovered that coordinate relative clauses are also (and probably more often) referred to as connective relative clauses. I've added a few more links at the end.
Coordinate (or connective) relative clauses look similar to non-defining relative clauses, and follow the same rules as non-defining clauses. Indeed some people would classify them as a sub-species of non-defining clauses. But there are a couple of subtle though key differences between classic non-defining relative clauses and coordinate relative clauses.
  • 1. While standard relative clauses tell us something about the noun they are modifying (the antecedent) , coordinate relative clauses give us new information
  • 2. We don't use standard non-defining relative clauses in spoken English very much, their being seen as rather formal. But coordinate relative clauses are often used in spoken and as well as written language.
This post should be considered more as an exploration of one small area of English grammar, than as a lesson. There is so little literature available on coordinate relative clauses, that I have had to largely rely on my own judgement. If anyone spots any glaring mistakes, please let me know.

What is a coordinate clause?

When we have more than one clause in a sentence, the clauses can relate to each other in one of two ways:
1. We can have a main clause and a subordinate clause, where the most important information is carried in the main clause. A common example of this is when we have an adverbial subordinate clause.
Main clauseSubordinate clause
I got wetbecauseI'd forgotten to bring my umbrella.
I met himwhenI was in Paris.
2. Or we can have two clauses of equal importance, in which case they are known as coordinate clauses. This commonly happens when we join two clauses with a coordinating conjunction such as and, but and or.
Coordinate clauseCoordinate clause
I love herandshe loves me.
He works in the citybuthe lives in the country.
Just a reminder that a sentence can of course have more than two clauses, but the same princoples apply.

Standard relative clauses are subordinate clauses

  • Mark is the person who will be running our new French operation.
  • Mark, who speaks French, will be running our new French operation.
In the first example, although the defining relative clause - who will be running our new French operation - is essential to tell us which person, it is still subordinate to the main clause - Mark is the person
In the second example, we have a main clause - Mark will be running our new French operation, and a non-defining relative clause - who speaks French - which gives us some extra, non-essential information about Mark, the 'antecedent' of the relative clause.

Two sentences become one.

Look at these two sentences:
  • This is Mark. He will be running our new French operation.
Here we have two independent ideas, each expressed in a separate sentence. We can express both ideas in one sentence in two ways. We have two coordinate clauses linked with and (a coordinating conjunction).
  • This is Mark, and he will be running our new French operation.
Or we can link the two clauses with the relative pronoun who.
  • This is Mark, who will be running our new French operation.
A note on whom. - It would be possible to use whom in one or two of the answers in the first exercise, but this would be rather formal. So for this exercise, stay with who. But remember, when you come to Exercise 3, you will need to use whom rather than who after prepositions.
Don't add any punctuation in the exercises, it's all been done for you.

Referring back to a noun

Look at these pairs of sentences:
  • I've just been talking to Martin. He says you're thinking of leaving.
  • At the front of the car is the radiator. It cools the engine.
As in the earlier example we can combine each pair of sentences into one sentence, with the relative pronouns who (for people) and which ( for things) becoming the subject of the second clause, typically replacing the pronouns he, she and it.
  • I've just been talking to Martin, who says you're thinking of leaving.
  • At the front of the car is the radiator, which cools the engine.
The second clause in each sentence is a coordinate relative clause. Note that, as in (other) non-defining clauses, we can't use the relative pronoun that or the zero relative pronoun, and we separate the relative clause off with a comma.

Exercise 1 - Complete each sentence (1-10) with a coordinate relative clause starting with who or which, using the sentences (a-j) below and making any necessary changes.

1. We have just hired Samantha, .
2. I gave your message to Peter, .
3. He gave his wife a set of gardening tools, .
4. I've just bumped into Adrian, .
5. I put on some Flamenco music, .
6. She showed me some old photos of Paul, .
7. She eventually married Stephen, .
8. He's just got a job in advertising, .
9. That car belongs to our new neighbours, .
10. I've just bought a new smartphone, .
aIt reminded her of her holiday in Andalucia
bHe hasn't changed a bit
cShe will be looking after HR from now on
dWe haven't met them yet
eI haven't seen him for ages
fIt's what he had always wanted
gIt can do everything imaginable
hShe had met him when they were at university
iHe says he'll contact you ASAP
jShe said they would be very useful

Referring to the whole of the first clause

When you learn about non-defining clause, you learn about which clauses that refer back to the whole of the main clause, rather than just to a single noun. Again they could be expressed as two sentences. They can be in the form a simple comment:
  • The weather stayed fine for the wedding, which was great.
Or they can introduce new information, especially a result or continuation of some sort:
  • The weather stayed fine for the wedding, which meant we could have the reception outdoors.
This is sometimes called a sentential relative clause

Exercise 2 - Complete each sentence (1-10) with a sentential relative clause, using the sentences (a-j) below and making any necessary changes.

1. Her parents were always praising her, .
2. He had finished his homework, .
3. She arrived at the interview ten minutes late,
4. She had forgotten her mobile, .
5. He managed to upset everyone, .
6. We've just bought a hybrid car, .
7. He invited her to the opera, .
8. I had to miss Samantha's party, .
9. I'm afraid I've got a meeting at two, .
10. She left without even saying goodbye, .
aThis was just typical of him
bThis meant he could go out and play
cThis made her feel a bit embarrassed
dThis I thought rather rude
eThis is why I can't stay long
fThis explains why she didn't call
gThis hardly made a good start
hThis should save on fuel bills
iThis was a bit of a shame
jThis pleased her no end

With prepositions

Coordinate relative clauses can also be used with prepositions.
  • I told him to button it. By this I meant he should keep his mouth shut.
  • I told him to button it, by which I meant he should keep his mouth shut.
This is more formal and is used more in written language.

Exercise 3 - Complete each sentence (1-8) with a coordinate relative clause starting with a preposition, using the sentences (a-h) below and making any necessary changes.

1. The clowns came into the ring, .
2. I didn't arrive until eleven, .
3. It started to rain, .
4. We've given the job to Fiona, .
5. They came out onto the balcony of the palace, .
6. He entered a shady grove of trees, .
7. She stood next to her brother, .
8. There were two tall trees, .
aDespite this we kept walking to the beach
bThe children burst out laughing at this
cBy this time most of the others had left
dShe looked rather small beside him
eBetween them was strung a hammock
fIn front of this was a huge crowd
gIn the middle of this was a small pond
hWe have the greatest confidence in her

With relative adverbs

And we can use coordinate relative clauses with the relative adverbs where and when, meaning 'in which place' and 'at which time'.
  • He lived there in the eighties. At that time he was a student.
  • He lived there in the eighties, when he was a student.
  • She went back to visit Brighton. She had first studied English there.
  • She went back to visit Brighton, where she had first studied English.

Exercise 4 - Complete each sentence (1-6) with a coordinate relative clause starting with where or when, using the sentences (a-f) below and making any necessary changes.t

1. We had a great holiday last autumn, .
2. Here are some photos of Windermere in the Lake District, .
3. We visited Dove cottage in Grasmere, .
4. Wordsworth was born in the late 18th century, .
5. In 1792 Wordsworth visited Paris,
6. And this is St. Oswald's churchyard, .
achange was in the air at that time
bWordsworth is buried there
cour hotel was there
dwe spent some time in the Lake District then
ethe poet Wordsworth lived there
fthe revolution was in full swing there

Reducing coordinate relative clauses

In certain circumstances we seem to be able replace which + verb with a present participle (-ing form), rather like in reduced relative clauses. This appears to happen most often when we are talking about a result or change of some sort.
  • Sales have been excellent. This has resulted in us doubling our order.
  • Sales have been excellent, which has resulted in us doubling our order.
  • Sales have been excellent, resulting in us doubling our order.

Exercise 5 - Complete each sentence (1-8) with a coordinate relative clause starting with an -ing participle, using the sentences (a-h) below and making any necessary changes.

1. Queues for tickets started very early,
2. It has been a very hot summer,
3. The roads have been very busy today, .
4. In the morning there will be light winds, .
5. Internet banking is very easy, .
6. He got top marks in his exams, .
7. She was late, .
8. There has been an accident on the M4, .
aThis makes visits to the branch largely unnecessary
bThis has blocked two lanes northbound
cThis has resulted in excellent ice cream sales
dThis suggests that the concert will be a sell out
eThis delighted his parents
fThese will become stronger in the afternoon
gThis meant that we had to start the meeting without her
hThis has lead to long traffic jams

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