By definition restrictive relative clause modifies the meaning of its head word (restricts its possible referent). In the sentence "Summer is the season when I'm happiest." how "the season" restricted by "when I'm happiest"?

I think that "the season" already restricted/defined by the "Summer" and "when I'm happiest" is an non-restrictive relative clause which adds supplementary information.

  • 2
    I think the mistake here lies in supposing summer is the "head word" for the relative clause starting with when, when it's actually season. Commented May 25, 2020 at 17:46
  • You are right that "summer" specifies "the season", but a restrictive relative clause is still required to express the fact that you are happiest in some season, and that season happens to be summer. You are happiest in the season of summer.
    – BillJ
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


You can say "Summer is a season." to define the word "summer", but if you say

"Summer is the season."

it's a meaningless statement, because you have singled out the particular season "summer", but haven't said anything about it to justify using the definite article "the". Adding "when I'm happiest." adds meaning to the statement, justifying singling out that particular season. In this example, that is why it is a restrictive clause.

  • "Summer is a season when I'm happiest." Isn't it a restrictive relative clause? Do you think the antecedent of a restrictive relative clause has to be preceded by the definite article 'the'? Commented May 25, 2020 at 19:05

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