Advanced Composition for Non-Native Speakers of English
Adjective Clauses

At a certain point in your writing in English, you should be able to identify every sentence you write as simple, compound, or complex.  Two additional structures, adjective clauses and appositives, will give you a much greater sentence variety within which to accomplish your writing objectives.  This page contains a small amount of information about adjective clauses along with just ten very difficult exercises.  First, we will define what adjective clauses are and how they work.

An adjective clause is a dependent clause that modifies a noun.  It is possible to combine the following two sentences to form one sentence containing an adjective clause:              

The children are going to visit the museum.
They are on the bus.

The children who are on the bus are going to visit the museum.
                  | adjective clause |

In the sentence above, there are two other ways to write the sentence correctly using the second sentence as the adjective clause. 

The children that are on the bus are going to visit the museum.
The children       on the bus       are going to visit the museum.

Some other sentences can be combined into a sentence using adjective clauses in a variety of ways, and they are all correct.  Note the variety of ways in which the following two sentences can be combined.

The church is old.
My grandparents were married there.

The church where my grandparents were married is old.
The church in which my grandparents were married is old.
The church which my grandparents were married in is old.
The church that my grandparents were married in is old.
The church my grandparents were married in is old.

In the sentences above, the adjective clauses are underlined.  All answers are correct.  Note the use of the word "in" and how and where it is used.


Managing simple, compound, and complex sentences, and then adding adjective clauses into the mix can result in some confusing situations regarding punctuation.  There are some specific rules when punctuation is permissible or required around adjective clauses (when the information in the adjective clause is non-essential information); however, in my composition classes, I insist that students NOT use commas around adjective clauses for several reasons.

First, non-essential information should generally be avoided in academic writing, at least in the short essays required for these composition classes.  Thus, not including the commas will more often be right than wrong.

Second, my Spanish speaking students have a natural tendency to write long sentences using many commas inappropriately.  By not using commas around adjective clauses, students can perhaps more readily recognize when a period is required.

Third, I believe it is easier to learn to apply commas later when they are required than the other way around.  Indiscriminate use of commas is a hard habit to undo in my experience.  Therefore do not use commas around adjective clauses, at least for one semester.

Are you ready to take the quiz?

This quiz is very difficult.  These sentences are actually the hardest I could find (in the sense that you need to know ALL the rules in order to get them all correct), so please follow the directions carefully.

1.  Do not use commas in any of the completed sentences.
2.  Make adjective clauses of the second sentence in every case.  (Obviously, any of these sentences could be written using the first sentence as the adjective clause; however, making adjective clauses of the second sentence is harder because it requires knowledge of all the "rules" of writing adjective clauses.)
3.  Spell correctly!  This quiz is "graded" by computer, so any spelling mistake or punctuation error, like forgetting a period at the end of a sentence, will be counted wrong.

Take the QUICK QUIZ now!

Finally, for those interested in more information about writing adjective clauses, a Google search of "adjective clauses" and "quiz" yields over 385 hits available here.


You are what you read!

Do you read your daily news stories from a variety of sources or just one?  For links to online news sources and different perspectives from around the world, click HERE.


Copyright Erlyn Baack