H. W. Fowler established a terminology (I do not know if it originates with him), where clauses that are related to another clause through a pronoun are called relative clauses; he further drew a distinction between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses to explain his famous rule about when to apply that vs. which.

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language rejects this terminology in favour of another terminology:

  • Instead of restrictive relative clause, the CGEL prefers integrated relative clause;
  • Instead of non-restrictive relative clause, the CGEL (always?, usually?) prefers supplementary relative clause.

Why does the CGEL, reflecting the preference in Anglistics, follow this alternative terminology?

1 Answer 1


The authors themselves say of the traditional terms:

They are misleading: the integrated relative is NOT always restrictive, in the sense of picking out a subset of the set denoted by the head noun.

They go on to give supporting examples. However, if you’re familiar with the CGEL, you probably already know this.

  • I've no current access to the CGEL, so thank you for looking this up. Would you know if all non-restrictive rel. clauses are supplementary? Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 18:35
  • @CharlesStewart: It would seem so. I have only the stripped down version, 'A Student's Introduction to English Grammar'. That's why I began my answer with 'The authors . . .' Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 18:52
  • Ah, indeed thanks, I had forgotten about the existence of that book. It is a bit cheaper than the full CGEL. Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 21:26

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