I have been reading BBC news for a long time and one thing attracts my attention on the texts, because that type of usage clashes with what we were taught on relative clauses, e.g. "30 people died. Most of them were children". You normally combine these sentences "30 people, most of whom were children, died".

But in the BBC news texts, they do not combine the sentences like this. Instead, they put the second sentence between commas and removing "are". But it is not a relative clause, at least in the sense what we are taught in English classes.

See the following BBC sentences for more details and focus on "...most of them children..."

1- "...The year before, a passenger ferry capsized and more than 300 people died, most of them school children on an outing..."

2- "...More than 140 people, most of them children, were killed when Taliban gunmen stormed a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, officials say...."

3- "...More than 140 people, most of them children, were killed when Taliban gunmen stormed a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, officials say...."

You see, they do not make a relative clause like we are taught at school which should be like this: "...most of whom were children...".

So, What kind of a clause is this? Or is it a relative clause at all? If it is not, what is it? Is it correct?


  • They are all 'verbless' clauses functioning as adjuncts. They are comparable to relative clauses, cf. "most of whom were children".
    – BillJ
    Jan 24, 2018 at 19:34
  • The version you were taught in school ("most of whom were children") sounds overly formal to me. I'm not surprised you're not finding it in news reports.
    – J.R.
    Jan 24, 2018 at 23:23

1 Answer 1


It's simply an elliptical clause. In this case the verb was omitted.

  • More than 140 people, most of them (were) children, were killed...

Probably this is done to avoid repetition (words are often omitted in one part of the sentence when they occur in another part). In this case the verb "were" would occur twice almost in a row.

  • This is the first time I have heard about elliptical clause. They do not teach about it at school when they are teaching relative clauses. The grammer lesson at school seem to clash with what I have seen in real life. E.g. If I had made a sentence at school like the sentence above "...most of them children..." instead of "...most of whom were children..." and had said to our teacher, "I used an elliptical clause", I would fail the exam.
    – yunus
    Jan 24, 2018 at 12:18
  • That's absurd. the use of elliptical (truncated) clauses is a normal thing in English and should be taught. Half the English idioms are built around elliptical clauses. Elliptical Clause Jan 24, 2018 at 12:31
  • Would the inclusion of the verb be possible? "More than 140 people, most of them were children, were killed." That doesn't sound too good to me.
    – Chaim
    Jan 24, 2018 at 13:58
  • Why not? It is your stylistic choice. Jan 24, 2018 at 14:00
  • 1
    Sorry, but while you can think of this phrasing as simply omitting "were", it is definitely not correct to include the verb. "Most of them were children" is a complete sentence, with a subject, verb, and object, and you can't just put it in the middle of another sentence where a parenthetical expression is called for.
    – stangdon
    Jan 24, 2018 at 16:03

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