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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Defining and non-defining relative clauses    

Defining and non-defining relative clauses


Defining and non-defining relative clauses
A while ago I stumbled upon such a test in one of Oxford textbooks
What is the difference between these
 1. a) Politicians who tell lies are to be despised.
      b)  Politicians, who tell lies, are to be despised.
This is quite clear -  a) is a defining type and implies that (only) the politicians who tell lies are to be despised and states that there are some politicians who are honest and do not fall in this category.  b)  (non-defining) states that to the speaker all politicians fall into the category of liars and bastards :D and they are all to be despised. The relative clause (who tell lies) is just extra info qualifying the politicians...
My question is, what is the difference between the following sentences? 
2.   I �ve met the man I want to marry.
       I �ve met the man that I want to marry.

5 May 2015      


Hi Giorgi, There is no difference in meaning. The variant without the relative pronoun is widely used in spoken English and more colloquial. Hope this is clarifying 😉 Isa

5 May 2015     


Thank you, Ingrid! The fact is that the book insists that there must be a difference (which leaves me bewildered) because I also do not see any  :/ The book is Oxford Headway Upper Intermediate and because of the level I thought there might be some strings attached to the test. I also consider there is a typo (which can ruin the reputation of Oxford text books :))) )  Thank you for your quick reply, dear friend!

5 May 2015     


Just got the teachers � book and had a look at it ... While the task was to find a difference (which means that there should be a difference) the teachers � book says  that there is (indeed!) no difference :)
What a silly waste of time.:)  And how silly of the authors not to mention that there was a sentence which did not answer the task!  The topic can be closed now.
Thanks everyone for having the time to look at it :)
p.s. Ingrid, I wish I could have been more self-confident, I feel kind of embarrassed to have asked about such a mere trifle thing :)
p.p.s. The next thing I am going to do is to write to the publishers and ask them to correct the wording of the task.
Have a great evening, everyone! 

5 May 2015     


no difference in meaning! when the relative pronoun functions as an object and not a subject, it can be deleted

5 May 2015     

United States


There �s no need to be embarrassed, because you made a reasonable assumption that they were not asking you to do something that is impossible. It is totally fair to have expectations of rationality, especially in a textbook. I agree with you that the exercise could be improved by asking students to name the differences, if any.

When you �re dealing with someone else �s language, as you are, there �s a natural assumption that something you don �t understand is just one of the finer points that you haven �t come across before. We know that those don �t happen too often with you. So, just shake this one off and move on (after you have written to them).

5 May 2015     

United Kingdom

Well said, Bruce.

5 May 2015     


Asking a question is embarrassing for a moment, but not asking is embarrassing for a lifetime.

Have a wonderful day, Giorgi.Smile

6 May 2015