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Non-restrictive relative clauses and restrictive relative clauses are difficult to distinguish. Definitions I have read tell the difference in meaning (semantics?). I haven't found a definition that explains the difference in terms of structure. I have found that many non-restrictive clauses modify proper nouns. A proper noun identifies a person, an organisation, or a thing. There is no need to give more identifying information. When a common noun is modified, a restrictive clause must be used, for the common noun can't give enough information for the reader to get a clear idea of the identity of what the noun represents. In clauses like the following one

My sister who went to school in New York came to visit me.

can either be restrrctive or non-restrictive. I'd like to hear your opinions. I'm not sure if this is a reasonable generalisation. More ways to identify non-restrictive clauses would be very helpful.
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1. My sister who went to school in New York came to visit me.
2. My sister, who went to school in New York, came to visit me

With the sentence #1, it is possible for us to suppose you had other sister(s), who did not go to school in New York. But with the sentence #2, we can negate that sort of possibility.

paco
Paco20041. My sister who went to school in New York came to visit me.
2. My sister, who went to school in New York, came to visit me

With the sentence #1, it is possible for us to suppose you had other sister(s), who did not go to school in New York. But with the sentence #2, we can negate that sort of possibility.

paco
That's been the tale told, Paco, but I'm afraid it ain't the gospel truth. The only thing that the clause in 2. does is give some added ifo about "my sister".

My sister, the one who went to school in New York, came to visit me.

Here we see that with the simple addition of 'the one', it clearly shows that there is more than one sister. People have ascribed all sorts of magical powers to these grammatical structures that simply aren't there. You always need a wider context in order to know what's truly what.
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Wampum
Paco20041. My sister who went to school in New York came to visit me.
2. My sister, who went to school in New York, came to visit me

With the sentence #1, it is possible for us to suppose you had other sister(s), who did not go to school in New York. But with the sentence #2, we can negate that sort of possibility.

paco
That's been the tale told, Paco, but I'm afraid it ain't the gospel truth. The only thing that the clause in 2. does is give some added ifo about "my sister".

My sister, the one who went to school in New York, came to visit me.

Here we see that with the simple addition of 'the one', it clearly shows that there is more than one sister. People have ascribed all sorts of magical powers to these grammatical structures that simply aren't there. You always need a wider context in order to know what's truly what.

I cannot get your point. "My sister, the one who went to school in New York, came to visit me". Here you use an appositive construction and it means "My sister who is the one who went to school in New York came to visit me". So, with this we can be allowed to imagine you might have another sister. Am I wrong?

paco
I did not completely understand what Mr. Paco said but I have to agree with you and say, with all due respect for Mr. Paco, he, this time, took the man who asked the question for a long, long magical ride to a magical land where things are not exactly what appear to be. I second your position.
1. My sister who went to school in New York came to visit me.
2. My sister, who went to school in New York, came to visit m


Hi folks,

For what is worth, I honestly think these two sentences basically convey the same message with the exception that one has two commas separating the clause from the main sentence which I personally think need not be there. The commas didn’t give any magical meaning but just another spin perhaps. To me, there is only one sister in this context. If there were another sister in the picture, I would simply say” one of my sisters who went to school in N.Y. came to visit me”.

Always have 2 cents to spareEmotion: smile
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I have to admit this pair of sentences are not clear to show the difference between restrictive and non-restrictive sentences. But how about the difference between the pair below?
(R) I have two American friends who study the Japanese language.
(NR) I have two American friends, who study the Japanese language.

paco
Maybe I am not the brightest bulb with regard to English. I still can't any appreciable difference with a comma!
You may hear : "I have two American friends who study Japanese and three who study Chinese". But I have never come across a sentence like: "I have two American friends, who study Japanese, and three, who study Chinese".

paco
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