Use Essential and Non-Essential Clauses in a Sentence

Edited by Ermin, Anonymous, Lynn, Ashraf and 2 others

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Today, you will learn about how to use essential and non-essential clauses in a sentence. These are very important in writing in any forms of articles. These are also called intervening clauses, or adjective clauses. In the English language, there are two important types of clauses - essential and nonessential clauses.

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An "essential", as the word itself suggests, means the importance in the sentence. On the other hand, non-essential is less important in the sentence. As a rule of thumb, essential clauses are not separated by commas, while nonessential clauses are separated by commas. If you remove the essential clause from the sentence, the meaning of it would change. If you remove the nonessential clause from the sentence, the meaning of the whole sentence would not change. 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]

  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
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Now, I am going to take out the italic clauses above. See changes below:

  1. 1
  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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Nonessential Clauses [Non-Restrictive Clauses]

  1. 1
    Justin, who read 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 whole sentence would not 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 OK to omit them. The meaning of the sentences above does not change, even 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. The shoes that she have chosen from the online store is already sold out.

Which shoes? The one she chose from the online store.

2. My classmates who got a high score on the quiz will be exempted on the examination.

Which classmate in the class? Those who got a high score on the quiz.

3. The meeting that she was going to attend is canceled.

Which meeting? The meeting that she was going to attend.

4. The dress that her best friend gave her is her favorite.

Which dress? The dress that her best friend gave her.

5. He wants to visit again the country where he saw a lot of pretty girls.

Which country? The country where he saw a lot of pretty girls.

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: Slaneymark09, Ashraf, Lynn

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