This information I got from Oxford Grammar by M. Swan, tells me that the difference between identifying and non-identifying clauses is just whether the topic that the speakers are talking about is conveyed or not.

For instance,

The book that got the prize for best first novel was written by my landlady.

The sentence above contains an identifying relative clause.

'Wild cherries', which got the prize for best first novel, was written by my landlady.

Whereas, the second sentence above contains a non-identifying relative clause.

For more examples, here's the screenshot of the e-book I took :

enter image description here

I notice that the non-identifying relative clauses are preceded by names. Related to my question, if the preceded subject is a name, is it always called a non-identifying clause?

P.s. I've been trying to find a counterexample, i.e. if it's not a name, but I haven't come up with something.

1 Answer 1


Non-identifying clauses are certainly not always preceded by names. Textbook authors overuse such examples because they create their own context. A name is always "self-identifying," so what follows is always non-identifying.

The following examples illustrate the same principle without using any names. They're a little longer but more characteristic of real sentences. The first is my own invention. I adapted the second from a scientific paper.

Yesterday, I ran into my professor and the dean of the college. The professor, whom I'd been avoiding for days, pretended to be happy to see me.

The study showed a significant effect of Facebook browsing on anxiety, which was assessed using a rating-based scale rather than a visual analog scale.

The second has a kind of "self-identifying" quality, because we already know what "anxiety" means, but it's not a name.

By the way, you missed the final example in your e-book, in which the roses is identified by the post-modifying phrase in the living room.

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