There have always been recommendations which are made to athletes.

I know "which are" can be omitted in the above sentence. Also, I learned that a subjective relative pronoun and the verb "be" cannot be omitted in some cases. Can you explain when they cannot be omitted?

Can a subjective relative pronoun and the verb “be” be omitted in the sentence below?

I have two sons who are doctors.

  • This is known to grammarians as "Whiz-deletion". The best summary I can find is this answer from John Lawler, but I'm not sure if it directly addresses your question
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 9:53
  • You can omit "which are". The result would be that the past-participial clause "made to athletes" replaces the relative "which are made to athletes", thus a slight change in the syntax.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 11:26

2 Answers 2


I can't give a complete answer. I have read that not all linguists accept the concept of "whiz-deletion". In "There have always been recommendations made to athletes", it is not obvious that "made to athletes" is derived from a relative clause "which are made to athletes"; an alternative interpretation is that "made to athletes" is a participial phrase that can by itself serve as a modifier.

You cannot replace "I have two sons who are doctors" with "I have two sons doctors."

  • 1
    You can say 'I have two sons working as doctors." though. Similarly you can say "I have two sons studying medicine." or "...living in Australia." or "...serving time for fraud". To my mind the common factor is that there is a verb following the 'Whiz-deletion'. I can't think of an example like the OP's "I have two sons doctors" which works with a whiz-deletion without a verb following the deleted phrase. Could it be that whiz-deletion is only used where the deletion does not turn an adjectival clause into an adjectival phrase?
    – BoldBen
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 23:43
  • @BoldBen: Could you elaborate on that? I don't know (or don't remember) the meaning of the terms "adjectival clause" and "adjectival phrase". I suppose that postnominal prepositional phrases like "in the garden" could also be analyzed as examples of whiz-deletion, although I don't see why that would be necessary.
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 23:47
  • A clause is a part of a sentence which is constructed like a sentence in its own right (that is it has both a verb and a subject). A phrase is a group of words which has at least one of those parts of speech missing. An adjectival clause or phrase is one which acts as as adjective. Actually I was wrong, the clause "two sons working as doctors" and the phrase "two sons as doctors" aren't adjectival, they are objects of the verb 'have'. However I still claim that the first one is a clause and the second one is a phrase so my suggestion does, I think, stand.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 13:19

A relative pronoun that is the subject of its clause — like this one — is only omitted in nonstandard varieties of English:

One time there was a widow woman lived by herself. — Ray B. Browne, “The Unfriendly Neighbors,” A Night With the Hants & Other Alabama Folk Experiences, 1976, 138.

  • If your sentence used living rather than lived, then it would be perfectly normal, and, in fact, using a relative pronoun would be ungrammatical. Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 17:21
  • The question seems to be about when "which" + a form of to be can be omitted, not about when which by itself can be omitted.
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 20:52
  • @JasonBassford: How is woman who lived by herself ungrammatical?
    – KarlG
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 14:04
  • @KarlG It isn't. But in the sentence, there is no pronoun: there was a widow woman [] lived by herself. Just the sentence A widow woman lived by herself would be fine too. But with there was, who needs to be added. (Unless, as I said, lived is changed to living.) Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 14:06

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