Increasing the range and patterns of complex sentences

Good writers can make their writing more interesting by using a wide range of sentence structures, including simple and complex sentences.

We can increase the range of complex sentences by using relative clauses. In such cases, a secondary clause (or relative clause) is joined to the main clause by means of a relative pronoun.

Relative clauses give more information about a head noun and they make the sentence more cohesive. Without them, sentences sound short and choppy.

Different pronouns used to start a relative clause:

1) which/that/who

The dish which/that you ordered is the most expensive on the menu. (pronoun for an object)

The woman who started shouting at the sales assistant is my neighbour. (pronoun for a person)

We can combine two sentences as follows:

Recently I read a historical novel. It made a lasting impression on me.

The historical novel that I read recently made a lasting impression on me.

2) whose

We use a relative clause beginning with the relative pronoun whose + noun when we are describing something belonging to a person, animal, plant or place.


The Okinawans are a healthy and long-lived race. Their diet consists mainly of tofu and fish.

By using a relative clause, the sentences sound more fluent:

The Okinawans are a healthy and long-lived race whose diet consists mainly of tofu and fish.

Other examples:

I had a dog whose incessant barking got me into trouble with the neighbours.

The art reference book was published by Italians, whose art galleries are among the best in the world.

We tend to avoid using whose for an object:

My parents posted me a parcel, whose packaging was badly torn in transit.

It would be better to say:

My parents posted me a parcel, of which the packaging was badly torn in transit.

3) where, whereby, when and why

He could never remember where he put his glasses. (=the place in which he …)

A cartel is a system whereby a group of companies agree on which prices to set for their goods. (=the system in which they …)

The Inland Revenue are very strict about the date when the tax returns are due in. (=the date on which …)

I can never understand why (or: the reason why) I have to write my initials on every page of a contract. (=the reason that …)

Using relative clauses to connect ideas. (Sentence correction)

Each of the following examples is grammatically incorrect. Write the correct version in the space that follows and then check your answer

Sentence Rewriting

Join the following sentences by making a relative clause and the appropriate relative pronoun. You may have to add or delete some words to make your sentence cohesive.

Sentence completion

Choose one of the words or phrases in the box and add either whereby, why, where, or when to complete the sentences.

1. the reason why

2. a process whereby

3. a region where

4. a period of history when

5. an agreement whereby

6. a procedure whereby

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