Now I study about relative clauses. But I have found something wrong.

  1. I met a woman. She can speak six languages. -> I met a woman who can speak six languages.

  2. A man phoned. He didn't give his name. -> A man who phoned didn't give his name. (Book's answer)
    But I think it should be like this: -> A man phoned who didn't give his name.

My questions are: 1. Why is there a difference in structure between (1) and (2)? 2. Is my sentence (2) correct?

Why do the two sentences have different structures?

  • Hi cooper, Is your answer just only for reason to my question?
    – Carter
    Oct 23, 2014 at 7:41
  • 2
    "A man [who didn't give his name] phoned" ← This is the basic position for a relative clause. "A man phoned [who didn't give his name]" ← This has the relative clause postposed, moved out of its basic position. See The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, p.1066 "Postposing of relative clause" for some discussion. (Outside of CGEL, many linguists would say extraposed instead of postposed.)
    – user230
    Oct 23, 2014 at 8:05
  • If you can would you please give example sentences to me about extraposed?
    – Carter
    Oct 23, 2014 at 8:14

4 Answers 4


Well - I am not into grammar much. So i wouldn't understand your question in grammatical sense. But i'll try to correct your second sentence.

A man who phoned didn't give his name. -

Here the article A is incorrect because you are talking about a particular man and not any random person. So the sentence should be

The man who phoned didn't give his name.

More examples

  1. I met a woman who was extremely beautiful. (not is)
  2. The guy who we ran into in the mall earlier is my friend. (note here 'is' and was both are possible) The guy who we ran into the mall earlier was my friend.

Is and was is possibe because sentences can be rephrased in a question using is and was both


  1. Who is that guy we ran into in the mall earlier ?
  2. Who was that guy we ran into in the mall earlier ?

It is a matter of subjects

Both sentences have two verbs, but in the first case their subject is different (I met, the woman can), while in the second case the subject is the same (the man phoned, the man didn't give).

So, when making the relative clause, you have the following:

  1. I (subject)
    met (verb)
    a woman (object) who can speak six languages (qualifier of the object)
  2. A man (subject)
    who phoned (qualifier of the subject)
    didn't give (verb)
    his name (object)

You could also say:

  1. A man (subject)
    who didn't give his name (qualifier of the subject)
    phoned (intransitive verb, thus no object)

Note: "Qualifier" is not a proper grammar word, it's just to have you understand.


There is no 'basic position' as such for relative clause, as least in terms of its position in the sentence being governed by some property of the sentence.

Assuming we are talking about bound clause (which most are) the principle is nice and simple: the relative clause follows the noun it modifies, for the very good reason that it improves the clarity of meaning. In your first example, the relative clause follows woman because it gives more information about the woman, and in the second it follows man for the same reason. This resulting in one clause being at the end of the sentence, and the other being in mid-sentence, is entirely incidental.

You can also use a relative clause to modify a noun phrase, but this can lead to confusion. Consider

The man ate the chicken, which annoyed the cat

What annoyed the cat? The chicken when it was alive, or the act of it being eaten?


Both your sentences are different in the way they are structured using words, phrases, and clauses. Both of your sentences are correct.

In English grammar, we have the Eight Parts of Speech that are words, and then we put those into phrases, and finally, we use them in clauses. There is much to say about all this. And your sentences can be explained with these ideas in mind.

Now I study about relative clauses. But I have found something wrong.

Again, there's nothing wrong.

In your first sentence you took to two separate sentences and combined them. This is called sentence combining. You took the second sentence and made it an adjective dependent clause: "...who can speak six languages." This sentence structure is called a Complex Sentence. Your two original sentences are called Simple Sentence. It is diagrammed like this:

I | met | a woman | who can speak six languages

Subject | verb | article +direct object | adjective dependent clause that modifies "woman" to say something about the woman. The relative pronoun "who" refers to its antecedent (the word the pronoun refers to), which is "woman" = "....woman can speak six languages."

In the second problem, you took the first sentence and put it into another adjective dependent clause, a short one: who phoned = man phoned.

This too is a complex sentence. I'll give you a link to show you the four kinds or types of sentence we mostly use in the English language. They have to do with clauses; that's what makes them different, the different clauses used.

Main clause: A man did not give his name

Dependent clause: who phoned

Main clause + dependent clause = Complex Sentence

A | man | who phoned | did give | not | his | name.


Here is an excellent page to help you understand what a clause is and how it is used.


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