Nonrestrictive Clauses Explained in Complex Sentences: Using ‘That,’ ‘Which,’ ‘While,’ and ‘Yet’ Correctly

The question: which word signals a nonrestrictive clause in a complex sentence? that which while yet. Restrictive clauses and non restrictive clauses are important in grammar and sentence structure to get the meaning and context right. Understanding what these clauses do can enhance the writing skills and the communication techniques to a great extent. In this post we will look at the importance of restrictive clauses and non restrictive clauses; we will focus on the word “which” as a modifier to indicate non restrictive clauses.

What are Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Clauses?

Restrictive Clauses

A restrictive clause is a relative clause which supplies vital info concerning the noun it relates to. It is occasionally called an essential clause due to this. It narrows or limits the noun it relates to. It’s not separated by a comma and it’s indispensable to the sentence.


  • The car that is parked in the driveway needs a wash.

Here, the restrictive clause “that is parked in the driveway” offers details concerning the car which needs washing. Without the detail there would definitely be no time like the present sentence clear.

Nonrestrictive Clauses

A restrictive clause is sometimes called a defining clause because it defines or limits the noun it modifies. That is it gives only a part of the information which relates to the noun. It’s “restrictive” because it limits or defines the noun; it gives only partial information about the noun, not the whole picture, unlike non restrictive clauses which give extra non essential information. Restrictive clauses are usually introduced by relative pronouns such as who, which, that. They are separated from the rest of the sentence by commas and can be removed without changing the overall meaning.

The Role of “Which” in Nonrestrictive Clauses

“Which”, on the other hand, is a very often used, and perhaps, the most commonly used relative pronoun to introduce nonrestrictive clauses referring to non-human nouns. “Which” acts as a marker to show that the clause following it, gives some extra, non-essential, or additional information about the noun.


  • The book which was published last year has become a bestseller.

Here, the relative pronoun “which was published last year” the clause following it, provides some extra information about the book (the noun) but is not essential to the noun. We can very well understand which book (the one that was published last year) has become a bestseller.

The Role of “That” in Restrictive Clauses

Unlike “which”, “that” is used to introduce restrictive clauses. It means the clause that follows is crucial to understanding the noun it’s modifying.


  • The book that I bought yesterday is a mystery novel.

Here the restrictive clause “that I bought yesterday” is what makes the book a mystery novel.

Exceptions to Nonrestrictive Clause Introducers

Just to note not all relative pronouns introduce non-restrictive clauses. For example, “while” and “yet” don’t introduce non-restrictive clauses. They’re more commonly used to connect independent clauses or contrast.


  • The sun, while shining brightly, was not warming.

In this example, “while shining brightly” doesn’t add non-essential information about the sun but rather contrasts the context.

Understanding the difference between restrictive and non-restrictive clauses and the words “which” and “that” is key to writing clear complex sentences. Master these and you can convey meaning and improve your writing. Whether you’re writing academic papers, professional documents or creative work, knowing your clause types in complex sentences is a valuable tool for any writer.

How to Identify Nonrestrictive Clauses in a Sentence

Nonrestrictive clauses are a part of English grammar. They give extra information without changing the meaning of the sentence. Knowing how to spot nonrestrictive clauses and how they work with proper nouns is key.

What are Nonrestrictive Clauses?

Non restrictive clauses are groups of words that give extra information about a noun in a sentence. They are not essential to the sentence and can be removed without changing the main idea. They are set off by commas and usually modify proper nouns and give extra detail to the reader.

Example of Nonrestrictive Clause:

  • Restrictive Clause: The car that is parked outside is mine. (The clause that is parked outside limits the meaning to one car.)
  • Nonrestrictive Clause: My car, which is parked outside, is red. (The clause which is parked outside adds information to my car but doesn’t limit or define it further.)

In the above example the nonrestrictive clause which is parked outside adds extra information to my car but doesn’t limit or define it. The commas set it apart from the main clause to show it’s nonessential.

The Purpose of Nonrestrictive Clauses

Non-restrictive clauses are used to describe something or add extra info or background to a sentence. Non-restrictive clauses add extra or more info without changing the overall meaning of the sentence. Non-restrictive clauses make ideas clearer by adding more info about a noun.

Importance of Commas

Commas separate non restrictive clauses from the rest of the sentence. The commas before and after a non-restrictive clause tell the reader that the clause is extra and non-essential information of some kind. It also helps to separate a non-restrictive clause so you don’t get confused when you read it.

Association with Proper Nouns

Specific objects, people or places are used with non-restrictive clauses. They add info that helps to identify the noun but doesn’t change its meaning in any way. Non-restrictive clauses modifying proper nouns tell the reader the background and more about the subject so you can get more out of it.

Example of Nonrestrictive Clause with Proper Noun:

  • Restrictive Clause: The book John wrote is a bestseller. (The clause John wrote specifies which book.)
  • Nonrestrictive Clause: The novel John wrote is a bestseller. (The clause John wrote adds extra information about the novel.)

In the example above the nonrestrictive clause John wrote adds extra information about the novel.

Nonrestrictive clauses are key to good writing. They’re tied to proper nouns, use commas to separate, and add to the reader’s understanding. Master the art of nonrestrictive clauses and you’ll add depth and clarity to your writing and write engaging copy.

Key Differences between Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Clauses

The difference between restrictive and non restrictive clauses is in the sentence and the message. Restrictive clauses define the noun they are modifying and non restrictive clauses add extra non essential information. Knowing the difference is key to communication and clear writing.

Role of Relative Pronouns

That, which, who, whom and whose are used to introduce restrictive and non-essential clauses. But it’s the commas and the information in the clause that determines if it’s a restrictive or non-essential clause.

Use of Commas

Remember, commas are the difference between restrictive and non restrictive clauses. Restrictive clauses have no commas, non restrictive clauses have commas before and after.

Types of Nouns Each Type of Clause is Associated With

Typically, restrictive clauses follow specific or particular nouns because they limit or specify the noun they refer to. Typically, nonrestrictive clauses follow general or nonspecific nouns because they add nonessential information about the noun they refer to.

Key Points

  • Essential vs. Nonessential Information: Restrictive clauses provide essential information, while nonrestrictive clauses provide nonessential information.
  • Commas: Nonrestrictive clauses are set off by commas, while restrictive clauses are not.
  • Relative Pronouns: “That” is typically used for restrictive clauses, while “which” is used for nonrestrictive clauses.
  • Noun Types: Restrictive clauses are often used with general nouns, while nonrestrictive clauses are used with specific nouns or proper nouns.

So, it is very important to know the distinction between these two kinds of clauses for effective sentence writing and easy reading in writing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which word signals a nonrestrictive clause in a complex sentence that which o while yet?

In a complex sentence, the pronoun which signals a nonrestrictive clause. Nonrestrictive clauses provide information about the sentence that is not essential to the dependent clause. Because they are set off by commas they can be removed from a sentence and the meaning of the whole sentence will remain the same.

What is an example of a nonrestrictive clause in a sentence?

A phrase that starts with “which” and follows a noun is a non restrictive clause because it only adds elaboration to the noun it follows; it doesn’t limit or change the meaning of the noun. For example, spiders are insects which are often poisonous.

Which sentence uses a nonrestrictive clause?

A synonym for a nonrestrictive clause is a nonessential clause or phrase. Here are some examples: I just want to say thank you to my dad, Mark Smith, for everything. Removing the nonrestrictive clause: I want to say thank you my father for his and love and support.

What are the signal words for complex sentences?

These words—as, as if, before, after, because, though, even though, while, when, whenever, if, during, as soon as, as long as, since, until, unless, where, and wherever—are used to form compound (or complex) sentences by introducing the dependent clause.

How do you identify which clause is this?

Here are some hints which will help you identify clauses: Look for a verb. Look for a subject. A clause must have both a subject and a verb. Look for connecting words like “and,” “but,” “because” and “although”. These words are used to introduce a clause.

How do you identify restrictive and nonrestrictive elements?

You may be able to remember this, because nonrestrictive clauses can usually be detached from the sentence and because commas signal the part of the sentence that can be detached. On the other hand, restrictive clauses cannot be easily detached from their sentences and usually cannot be followed by a comma.

What words signal a nonrestrictive clause?

Which clauses are set off from other elements in a sentence by commas and introduced by a relative pronoun (“which,” “who,” “whom,” or “whose”). The meaning of a sentence is not affected if which clauses are removed. They are sometimes called nonrestrictive clauses, since they do not restrict or define the noun they accompany. Here is an example of a nonrestrictive clause: I  liked the book, which was written by my favorite author.

What is an example of a non restrictive adjective clause?

Nonrestrictive adjectives need commas on both sides of the phrase. All those girls are going to the same college; they’ve known each other for years. We still know that those girls are going to the same college even if the clause is removed. It is not a restrictive clause. Also Read: The Advantages of Level 2+ Autonomy Over Level 2 in Modern Vehicles

What are examples of restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses?

The interviewees were volunteers in the study. (restrictive) Walden University, which is entirely online, has its main administrative offices in Baltimore and Minneapolis.(nonrestrictive)

What is the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive adj clauses?

Commas are not needed when the material in a restrictive adjective clause must be known to complete the sentence. The material in a nonrestrictive clause must be set off with commas since it is additional information given to increase our knowledge.

What is the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive modification?

Modifiers are of two types: restrictive and nonrestrictive. A restrictive modifier cannot be omitted without destroying the meaning of the sentence; a nonrestrictive modifier can be omitted without any loss or necessity.

Which vs that restrictive vs nonrestrictive?

That for a restrictive clause. Which for a nonrestrictive clause. Remember, which is as disposable as a bag for sandwiches. You can use which if you can remove the clause without altering the sentence meaning. Another word for nonrestrictive is nonessential.

What are the 10 examples of relative clauses?

Here are 10 examples of relative clauses:

  1. The car that I bought last year has been very reliable.
  2. The woman who is wearing the red dress is my sister.
  3. The movie which we watched last night was very funny.
  4. The book whose cover is torn is still a good read.
  5. The city where I was born is a great place to visit.
  6. The day when we first met was one of the best days of my life.
  7. The reason why she left the party early is still a mystery.
  8. The restaurant where we had dinner was very expensive.
  9. The girl who won the spelling bee received a trophy.
  10. The elderly woman who lives next door is an engineer.

In each sentence the relative clause (bold) refers to a noun or pronoun in the independent clause and adds extra information to it. The relative pronouns “who”, “that”, “which”, “whose”, “where” and “when” introduce the relative clauses.

Which sentence contains a nonrestrictive clause and is?

“The teacher packed picnic lunches for all the students, which they loved, and ate lunch outside with them during playtime.” is the sentence with a non-restrictive clause and with proper punctuation.

What is an example of a restrictive phrase?

If the phrase limits the word it relates to, it is restrictive (also called essential). It points out the particular noun that you are talking about. The reader cannot understand the sentence without the restrictive phrase. Restrictive phrases are not set off with commas. Our coach is the man in the white jacket.

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