GAME CHANGER: Adjective Clauses That Modify Whole Sentences

Most students are familiar with adjective clauses that modify a noun.  For example, they have learned to make sentences like the one below:


Baby playing with bubblesThe little girl who is in this picture is cute.

They might also know that this type of adjective clause is called an identifying clause.  It is necessary in order to know which girl.

Students might also have studied non-identifying clauses which give extra information.  For example:

Coveriwhich is an Italian company, designed the little girl’s dress.

We say this is extra information because Coveri is a proper noun, a name.

However, most students aren’t aware that a non-identifying adjective clause can sometimes modify an entire sentence.  Look at this example:

The little girl is playing with bubbleswhich is making her smile.

In this case, it is the activity of blowing bubbles which is the fun thing.  The situation itself is what is making her smile.


Let’s look at another example.

Commuters at a train station

 Every day I commute to work, which takes a long time.

I have to take a train for 45 minutes, which is tiring.

These adjective clauses are commenting on my trip to and from work—that’s what takes a long time and is tiring.

Here are some more examples:

During my commute, I textwhich makes the time go faster.

Here it’s easy to see that the adjective clause is not modifying a noun.  “Text” is a verb, in fact.  The adjective clause is describing and commenting on the whole situation.

Sometimes, I just look out the window, which relaxes me

The window by itself doesn’t relax me.  It’s the action of looking out the window that relaxes me.

Practice:  How could you complete these sentences?  (Some possible answers are below)

  1. I found $20 on the sidewalk today, which ___________.
  2. I have a big exam tomorrow, which ___________.
  3. Three times a week, I work out for two hours, which ___________.
  4. I have a lot of brothers and sisters, ___________.
  5. ___________, which makes me jealous.
  6. ___________, which bothers me.
  7. ___________, which made it hard for me to sleep.
  8. ___________, which means I must drive carefully.


Possible Answers: 

  1. was lucky.
  2. makes me nervous.
  3. keeps me in good shape.
  4. means I always have someone who can help me or give me advice.
  5. My friend is very successful
  6. The person sitting next to me keeps jiggling his leg
  7. My neighbors made a lot of noise last night
  8. There is a police car behind me