Use Essential and Non-Essential Clauses in a Sentence

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In this article we'll talk about how to use essential and non-essential clauses in a sentence. These are very important when writing in any form and in articles. These are also called intervening clauses, or adjective clauses. In the English language, there are two important types of clauses - essential and non-essential clauses.

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An "essential clauses", as the word essential suggests, means it is crucial to understand the intent of the sentence. On the other hand, non-essential is less important to the meaning of the sentence. As a rule of thumb:

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  • Essential clauses are not separated by commas.
  • Non-essential clauses are separated by commas.

If you remove the essential clause from the sentence, the meaning of it will change. If you remove the non-essential clause from the sentence, the meaning of the sentence won't change, but there will be less information. The essential clause is also known as restrictive clause, and the non-essential clause is known as non-restrictive clause.

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Essential Clauses [Restrictive Clauses]

Note: The non-essential clauses are in brackets.

  1. 1
    All employees (who are industrious) will earn higher salary
    .
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  2. 2
    The house (that I intended to buy) is already sold
    .
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  3. 3
    The rats are nesting in the closet (where Grandma hides her money.)
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  4. 4
    The books (that were removed from the bookshelf) are mine
    .
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Now, I am going to take out the italic clauses above. See changes below:

  1. 1
    All employees will earn higher salary
    .
    (This means that ALL EMPLOYEES will earn higher salary, which is a good thing if it's true.)
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  2. 2
    The house is already sold. (Which house
    ?
    The sentence is not specific.)
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  3. 3
    The rats are nesting in the closet. (Whose closet
    ?
    Not specific.)
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  4. 4
    The books are mine
    .
    (Which books? Not specific.)
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Now, you see the importance of essential clauses in the sentence. AND they must NOT be set off by commas. If they are removed, the meaning of the entire sentence will change. In addition, the sentences may be ambiguous without essential clauses. The essential clause is important in a sentence to identify which thing or person you are referring to. As in example number 4, you should always use "THAT" in a clause that is essential in the sentence.

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Non-essential Clauses [Non-Restrictive Clauses]

  1. 1
    Justin, (who was reading the newspaper), was interrupted by his younger sister.
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  2. 2
    Edgar Allan Poe, (who wrote The Black Cat), is a great American poet and short-story writer.
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  3. 3
    Mangoes are among the world's healthiest fruits, (which people also love to eat.)
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If non-essential clauses are removed, the meaning of the sentence won't change. Study the revised sentences below:

  1. 1
    Justin was interrupted by his younger sister.
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  2. 2
    Edgar Allan Poe is a great American poet and short-story writer.
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  3. 3
    Mangoes are among the world's healthiest fruits.
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Non-essential clauses are intervening or additional clauses. In other words, they ADD non-essential or extra information to the sentence, which may not be necessary, so it is okay to omit them. The meaning of the sentences above does not change, even when the non-essential clauses are removed. Take note that non-essential clauses are always SET OFF by commas. "Which" is also used in non-essential clause and not "that". The latter is used for essential or restrictive clauses.

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Questions and Answers

Essential and nonessential clauses games?

I have tried to find any simple flash games to teach this, but unfortunately it seems there are none. If you can talk to a teacher, then maybe they can point you in the direction of some games to help with your English courses

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5 essential sentences?

Here are five (5) essential sentences:

  1. 1
    The shoes that she chose from the online store are already sold out
    .
    • Which shoes? The one she chose from the online store.
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  2. 2
    My classmates, who got a high score on the quiz, will be exempted from the examination
    .
    • Which classmate in the class? Those who got a high score on the quiz.
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  3. 3
    The meeting that she was going to attend is canceled
    .
    • Which meeting? The meeting that she was going to attend.
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  4. 4
    The dress that her best friend gave her, is her favorite
    .
    • Which dress? The dress that her best friend gave her.
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  5. 5
    He wants to visit the country again; where he saw a lot of pretty girls
    .
    • Which country? The country where he saw a lot of pretty girls.
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How to transform non-essential clauses to essential clauses and vice versa?

My son, who plays so much, has become tired

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Placing commas before subordinate conjunctions?

I am looking for a non-parenthetical statements. When do you place a comma in front of a subordinate conjunction that is non-essential? I understand it for the words where and who, but I am looking to understand it mainly for the word - as. Thank you.

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Categories : Communications & Education

Recent edits by: Nuance, Eng, Slaneymark09

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