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  1. #1
    albertino is offline Senior Member
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    Descriptive and Restrictive

    As a non-native speaker, I sometimes find it difficult to discern a phrase whether it is descriptive or restrictive in modifying a noun.
    Could any teachers help me on this? Thank you.

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    Soup's Avatar
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    Re: Descriptive and Restrictive

    Take the clause out. If it changes the meaning of the sentence, then it's restrictive, that is, no commas. For example,

    A suitcase which/that is without handles is useless.
    A suitcase, which/that is without handles, is useless = A suitcase is useless.

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    albertino is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Descriptive and Restrictive

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Take the clause out. If it changes the meaning of the sentence, then it's restrictive, that is, no commas. For example,

    A suitcase which/that is without handles is useless.
    A suitcase, which/that is without handles, is useless = A suitcase is useless.
    Thank you, Soup. In answering my question, you have also solved my long-standing qualm about when to use a comma before a relative clause and when not to, i.e. whether the relative clause in the sentence is a descriptive or restrictive one. It's great. Thank you very much.

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    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Re: Descriptive and Restrictive

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Take the clause out. If it changes the meaning of the sentence, then it's restrictive, that is, no commas. For example,

    A suitcase which/that is without handles is useless.
    A suitcase, which/that is without handles, is useless = A suitcase is useless.
    Sorry but I'm puzzled, Soup. I thought that [in almost all situations] non-restrictive clauses only used 'which'.

    Also, if we remove the relative clause from both sentences we end up with the meaning changed in both sentences.

    A) [removed] A suitcase is useless. = A suitcase is useless.
    B) [removed] A suitcase is useless = A suitcase is useless.

    It seems to me that the addition of commas isn't all that's necessary to make a restrictive clause into a non-restrictive one, at least for every situation.

  5. #5
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Re: Descriptive and Restrictive

    Quote Originally Posted by albertino View Post
    As a non-native speaker, I sometimes find it difficult to discern a phrase whether it is descriptive or restrictive in modifying a noun.
    Could any teachers help me on this? Thank you.
    Albertino,

    They are referred to as restrictive and non-restrictive phrases/clauses. Remember, it is something viewed from a speaker's perspective, not from the listeners' perspective.

  6. #6
    albertino is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Descriptive and Restrictive

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    Albertino,

    They are referred to as restrictive and non-restrictive phrases/clauses. Remember, it is something viewed from a speaker's perspective, not from the listeners' perspective.
    Thank you to Soup and Riverkid.

    Riverkid, your correction to the 2nd example given by Soup is right, and I think it is a slip of hand when Soup forgot to delete "that" during the copy-and-paste process. And I always do the same thing, ha, ha... Anyway, thanks for pointing it out.

    Also, as far as I know, the use of the pair of commas with a relative clause in a sentence is just an additional information given to the listener(non-identifying function), so that it can be dispensed with without affecting the meaning of the main sentence.
    However, if the relative clause is added without the commas, it means that it is an important information to make the preceding noun it modifies clearer(identifying function), and therefore it cannot be got rid of. Otherwise, the meaning of the sentence will become ambiguous.
    For example,
    My uncle who works in London has given me a letter.(identifying: Who? if the speaker has more than two uncles, i.e.the uncle who works in London rather than the other one who works in China.)
    My uncle, who works in London, has given me a letter.(non-identifying: just an add-in information, telling the listener my uncle is working in London.)

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    justinwschang is offline Member
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    Re: Descriptive and Restrictive

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    Sorry but I'm puzzled, Soup. I thought that [in almost all situations] non-restrictive clauses only used 'which'. [I think BE tends to use "that" for restrictive (i.e. defining) clauses, and "which" for either informative clauses (always with commas) or restrictive clauses (no commas, usually). AmE uses "that" for restrictive or informative clauses (making commas necessary for the latter) and hardly uses "which".]

    Also, if we remove the relative clause from both sentences we end up with the meaning changed in both sentences.

    A) [removed] A suitcase is useless. = A suitcase is useless.
    B) [removed] A suitcase is useless = A suitcase is useless.

    It seems to me that the addition of commas isn't all that's necessary to make a restrictive clause into a non-restrictive one, at least for every situation.
    The hill there that rises steeply faces the sea. (restrictive , BE and AmE)
    The hill there, that rises steeply, faces the sea. (informative, BE and AmE)
    The hill there, which rises steeply, faces the sea. (informative, mainly BE)
    The hill there which rises steeply faces the sea. (restrictive, BE but hardly used nowadays)

    "Which" with preceding preposition:
    The house in which he grew up was small. (restrictive)
    The result of which I'm certain is a no-brainer. (restrictive)
    The result, of which I'm certain, is a no-brainer. (informative)

  8. #8
    Soup's Avatar
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    Re: Descriptive and Restrictive

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    Sorry but I'm puzzled, Soup. I thought that [in almost all situations] non-restrictive clauses only used 'which'.
    You should do your research.)

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid
    Also, if we remove the relative clause from both sentences we end up with the meaning changed in both sentences.
    That argument stems from the following erroneous assumptions, that restrictive clauses are all the same and that they are non-restrictive by default.

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid
    It seems to me that the addition of commas isn't all that's necessary to make a restrictive clause into a non-restrictive one
    So, in other words you're saying... What exactly?

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    Soup's Avatar
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    Re: Descriptive and Restrictive

    Quote Originally Posted by albertino View Post
    ... I think it is a slip of hand when Soup forgot to delete "that" during the copy-and-paste process.
    No, it wasn't a "slip". You, too, albertino, should do your research. I understand, or rather hear that riverkid prefers modern grammar to traditional grammar, which is odd because that and which are not mutually exclusive, nor where they ever. It's a simple matter of which rules of grammar you subscribe to. The same holds true for terminology.

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    justinwschang is offline Member
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    Re: Descriptive and Restrictive

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    You should do your research.)

    That argument stems from the following erroneous assumptions, that restrictive clauses are all the same and that they are non-restrictive by default. [I believe adjective clauses do two distinctive functions: either define ("restrictive") or give more info ("informative")]

    So, in other words you're saying... What exactly?

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