TOEFL Writing Tips: Adjective Clauses 101

The adjective clause is an important aspect of grammar to keep in mind on the TOEFL writing portion.  Unlike the adverbial clause, which is mostly used on the integrated essay for compare/contrast, the adjective clause can be found in both the integrated and independent writing sections.  What do adjective clauses do and when is it important to use them?  (Please note: Adjective clauses can also be referred to as adjectival or relative clauses.)

An adjective clause will contain the following:

·       a subject and a verb

·       a relative pronoun: who, whom, whose, that or which OR

·       a relative adverb: when, where or why

·       also, the adjective clause will ultimately function as an adjective

Adjective clauses are divided into two main categories: identifying and nonidentifying.

Identifying Adjective Clauses give information that is essential to the overall meaning of the sentence.

For example: Men who are willing to work will undoubtedly find a job.

In this sentence, the adjective clause is who are willing to work.  In other words, if we extracted who are willing to work from the sentence it would alter its meaning entirely, making it identifying.

Nonidentifying Adjective Clauses give nonessential information – they serve the purpose of adding extra bits of information that aren’t crucial to the overall meaning of the sentence.

For example: The movie lasted about three and a half hours, which at times felt somewhat longer, so I made sure to have plenty of soda and popcorn.

The adjective clause which at times felt somewhat longer isn’t exactly necessary in terms of the overall meaning of the sentence.  The main ideas expressed in the sentence are in the beginning and the end, making the middle somewhat additional and nonidentifying.  (Also, with nonidentifying adjective clauses “that” is not used.)

Overall, adjective clauses will pepper your writing and allow your ideas to come across smoother and clearer.  Just make sure when you use them to acknowledge whether you are using identifying or nonidentfying so you have mastery of your own TOEFL writing.

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Posted on September 20, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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