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Ram, whom I called yesterday, is a very good boy.

Can this sentence be reduced to:

Ram, I called yesterday, is a very good boy.

My confusion arose after I saw somewhere that the relative pronoun can't be omitted if it's of a non defining relative clause. Please clear my confusion.

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  • That's correct. This is a non-defining relative clause, so the pronoun cannot be omitted.
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 7:51
  • I edited my question. Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 11:08

1 Answer 1

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I must admit that I do not like applying the terms “defining” and “non-defining” to relative clauses because the so-called “defining” clauses seldom or ever define a noun. I prefer the terms “descriptive” and “restrictive.”

A descriptive clause adds information that is not essential to the main sense of the sentence. It could be left out.

Ram is a very good boy

is a complete thought.

whom I called yesterday

is a separate thought. It merely describes an incidental fact about Ram that is not relevant to whether he is a good boy.

A restrictive clause adds information that is essential to the main thought

The policemen who arrived at the accident were efficient in their action and also very polite.

The clause starting with “who” is essential to the intended meaning. No statement about policemen in general is intended. It is a statement restricted in meaning to specific policemen at a specific time and place.

In some cases, it is permissible to omit “that” or “which” from the beginning of a restrictive clause. That is not true of clauses that are merely descriptive.

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  • So you're concluding that in this sentence that I've given, we can't omit the relative pronoun 'whom' ? Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 14:43
  • @SahilLaskar No, you cannot. It is a descriptive clause, and so the relative pronoun is mandatory. Moreover, it is only in some cases that a relative pronoun is optional in a restrictive clause. You will never go wrong if you never omit the relative pronoun to introduce a relative clause. Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 14:53
  • Ok I've got your point. Now if I cite a sentence " My father, who is a doctor, is very honest". Clearly it's a descriptive clause. But this sentence is often reduced to " My father, a doctor, is very honest ". I can also cite another sentence, " John, who is working hard, will definitely succeed" which is often reduced to " John , working hard, will definitely succeed". Please clear my confusion on these two sentences. Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 15:56
  • Neither example is of a clause, which necessarily contains a verb. The "doctor" one has a noun in apposition. Such nouns are perfectly grammatical, but mostly found in formal writing. The second is an adjectival phrase based on a participle. Moreover, it is ambiguous. It may have a conditional meaning: "John, by working hard, will definitely succeed." Ot it may have a causative meaning: "John, due to working hard, will deinitely succeed." Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 18:04
  • Ok. I agree with you that the second one is ambiguous. Now my question is can I consider the first one as the reduced form of " My father, who is a doctor, is very honest"? Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 14:17

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