107 Restrictive Clauses (English)

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Introducing Restrictive Clauses

To understand what a restrictive clause includes, let's first examine the word restrictive.
By the way, using a word as a word in a sentence receives the italics treatment. The word italics is unrelated to the country Italy. Notice I italicize the word italics when using it in a sentence as the word itself. Get it?
Italics is a style imposed on letters, characters, words, terms, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs to mimic the act of writing in script. Notice that Italics, while plural, receives a singular verb in the preceding sentence. Do you understand why? We'll circle back to that if you don't. Send me a reminder when I forget.
When you see this: {R} in any of the study plans of PapooseWeb, then that is an indicator of the grammar choice that was just made. {R} means the term or phrase that follows restricts the term or phrase that precedes the {R} symbol.
Don't get frustrated about learning this. Most people with advanced knowledge of English language usage still engage in lively debates as ambiguous examples divide scholars into teams of R vs NR.


Something that is restrictive restricts something else; that is to say, when something is restricted, it is limited, reduced, specified, or identified. If I have three shapes; two are triangles, and one is a square, then the shape that is square, which is not a triangle, is alone. In that sentence, let's examine every comma:
If I have three shapes; two are triangles, and one is a square, then the shape that is square, which is not a triangle, is alone.
1. The first comma after triangles is correct because I am not limiting myself to a certain amount of shapes. I already defined the amount of shapes, right? No. But usually that's how you solve the restrictive question. In this case, we have an independent clause before the comma.
Independent clause: a phrase or part of a sentence that contains a subject and a predicate. For example, I am man. I is the subject, and am man is the predicate. In that last sentence, I was the subject of the first independent clause, and am man was the term acting as the subject of the second independent clause in that compound sentence defining the simpler sentence preceding it.
When a compound sentence contains two independent clauses, then if you are using a conjunction, then they are separated by a comma before the conjunction. If you do not include a conjunction, then most likely the two clauses are separated by a semicolon. We'll circle back to a lot of these points. For now, let's focus on commas.
So the first comma is determined to be valid because there is a conjunction following it and an independent clause following the conjunction. When you learn about the serial comma and series items, you may think back to this lesson and wonder why I was able to cast the sentence with two comma-separated expressions where both included the same conjunction. We'll circle back to that lesson much, much later.
(CB.Jedi :: because the list is of shapes not sentences; for example, if we have two sentences: two are triangles and one is a square. However, if I have three shapes; two are triangles, and one is a square. Got it?) (/CB)
So the first comma is non-restrictive because it is not limiting the two triangles; that is, it does not restrict the two triangles from among other triangles implied. If however, I were to write: "the two triangles that are furthest from the square," then I imply there are more than two triangles, and the two I am referencing are the ones furthest from the square; the other triangles implied in the sentence are closer to the square. On the other hand, if I write: "the two triangles, which are furthest from the square," then there are only two triangles, without any additional triangles implied, and they are furthest from the square compared to other objects that are not triangles.

That vs Which

We learned long ago that restrictive is for use with the word that, and non-restrictive is for use with the word which
But other pronouns and words also follow the same rules in certain cases. The word because always follows the same exact rules of That vs Which, only in both cases of restrictive or non-restrictive, you still use the same word because, unlike the pronouns that and which.
Restrictive: A restrictive clause is one that is essential to the meaning of the sentence as a whole because it limits the meaning or extent of the independent clause.
Nonrestrictive: A nonrestrictive clause is not essential to the meaning of the sentence as a whole; that is, it could be deleted from the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence.
Subordinate conjunctions: after, although, because, except, if, unless, when, whether, while
Punctuation of dependent clauses introduced by subordinate conjunctions:
Dependent clause, independent clause.
Independent clause restrictive dependent clause.
Independent clause, nonrestrictive dependent clause.
When a restrictive dependent clause follows an independent clause, no comma is used.
When a nonrestrictive dependent clause follows an independent clause, a comma follows the independent clause.
Relative pronouns: that, who, which
Relative adjective: whose
Relative adverb: when, where
A relative clause must follow the punctuation rules of restrictive vs. nonrestrictive clauses.
Adults who are blind cannot see. (True only for those adults who are blind)
Bats, who are blind, cannot see. (True for all bats)
Appositives are always nonrestrictive and should be set off by commas both before and after the clause. This rule applies to appositives that are introduced by and or or.
The dog, named Spot, is a male.
My dog Spot, and best friend, is a male.
Example of the subtlety between restrictive and nonrestrictive:
He was annoyed when the phone rang.
In this case, the ringing of the phone annoyed him.
He was annoyed, when the phone rang.
In this case, he was annoyed and then the phone rang.