What Is a Non-restrictive Clause? (with Examples)

What Is a Non-restrictive Clause? (with Examples)

A non-restrictive clause is a clause which is not needed to identify the word it modifies, i.e., it is just additional information. As a non-restrictive clause is not essential to the meaning of a sentence, it is offset with commas. For example:
  • Peter Jones , who plays goalkeeper for our village football team, has worked at his father's greengrocers for twenty years.
  • (The shaded text is a non-restrictive clause. It describes Peter Jones , but it does not identify him. It is merely additional information about him. Deleting this clause would not affect the meaning.)
Non-restrictive clauses contrast with restrictive clauses. Look at this example of a restrictive clause:
  • The man who plays goalkeeper for our village football team has worked at his father's greengrocers for twenty years.
  • (The bold text is a restrictive clause. It describes the man, and it identifies him. It is not just additional information. It is essential for understanding.)


You are not limited to commas when offsetting a non-restrictive clause. You can parentheses (brackets) or dashes too.

Read more about your choices of punctuation for offsetting a non-restrictive clause.

Examples of Non-restrictive Clauses

Here are some more examples of non-restrictive clauses:
  • I went to London with John Baker, who lives next door.
  • (This is just additional information. It's a non-restrictive clause.)
  • Betty, who is still on the ferry, will arrive before 4 o'clock.
  • (This is just additional information. It's a non-restrictive clause.)
Read more about using commas with which, that, and who.

Some More Examples of Non-restrictive Clauses

Here are some more examples of non-restrictive clauses in real-life quotes (non-restrictive clauses shaded):
  • Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it. (Russel Lynes)
  • Humans are the only animals that have children on purpose with the exception of guppies, who like to eat theirs. (P J O'Rourke)
  • She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit.
  • You can talk about anything if you go about it the right way, which is never malicious. (Rodney Carrington)

See Also

What is a clause? What is a modifier? What are restrictive clauses? More about using commas with which, that, and who More about your choice of parentheses Glossary of grammatical terms