"We live in a submarine(,) which is painted yellow."

  • 2
    It would be definitely be restrictive if it were the submarine. The a indicates that it is one of many: it could still be restrictive, but only the comma will tell you whether it is or not. – JavaLatte Oct 30 '16 at 16:35
  • Integrated, but not restrictive. No different to an ascriptive modifier, cf. "We live in a yellow submarine". – BillJ Oct 30 '16 at 18:43

That depends on whether you use the comma or not. It may be confusing that the relative clause is at the end, making it look optional.


  • We live in a submarine, which is painted yellow.

With the comma, there's one submarine that just happens to be painted yellow. If you remove the relative clause you still know what submarine is meant; the paint is supplementary.


  • We live in a submarine which is painted yellow.

Without the comma, you can imagine the submarine is one of many. The paint now identifies the submarine. If you remove the relative clause you don't know what submarine is meant anymore; the paint is not supplementary.

Also: in restrictive relative clauses you can replace which by that; in non-restrictive ones you can't.

Where I learned this:

| improve this answer | |
  • Side note: I could be wrong. Last evening I just started digging into Wikipedia's linguistic maze and ended up here. – Academise Oct 30 '16 at 18:42

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