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  1. My son who lives in America is a doctor.
  2. My son, who lives in America, is a doctor.

I know that the first sentence has a defining relative clause and the second sentence has a non defining relative clause. I came to know that one of the two sentences means that I have only one son and he is a doctor. I want to know whether it is true or not and if yes, which sentence gives that meaning?

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  • Lives in America, or loves in America? Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 9:09
  • I live in India and I will love you Mr Michael Harvey if you answer my question Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 9:38
  • This is a slightly insane question! OP claims to understand that the first sentence features a defining relative clause and the second sentence has a non defining relative clause. What on earth does it mean to "recognize" those two different syntactic labels (terms that most native Anglophones won't know) but not understand how the meaning of a sentence changes, depending on whether those pauses / commas are present or not? Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 17:28
  • I think Mr Fuble Finger will consult a good grammar book on defining and defining non-defining relative clauses even though he is the best grammarian.If the question is slightly insane, the entire credit goes to the native English authors who prepare grammar books and course books. This is an example taken from a Cambridge dictionary. Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 16:19

2 Answers 2

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My son who lives in America is a doctor.

This means: you have more than one son, only one of your sons lives in America, and that son is a doctor.

My son, who lives in America, is a doctor.

This means: you have only one son, that son lives in America, and that son is a doctor.

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  • I think you might be going off track with the idea of one son. And the one who lives in South Africa is a lawyer.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 21:09
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My son who lives in America is a doctor.

The phrase in bold is called a defining relative clause. Relative clauses define the the person or thing being mentioned but it is mistaken to presume the writer has just one son. The writer has a son living in America but they could have a son who lives in Spain, and another who lives in Australia.

Non-defining relative clauses, the ones set off by commas, can lend themselves to misinterpretation. In order to clarify whether there is one or more sons, we could write/say:

One of my sons lives in America, and he's a doctor.
My only son, who lives in America, is a doctor.

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