Grammaz Quiz #8: Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Clauses

By Daniel Scocco

In each pair of sentences below, choose the version that correctly indicates through word and punctuation choice whether an explanatory phrase is restrictive or nonrestrictive.

1.
a) Smith is a spokesman for the US Army’s 800th Military Police Brigade that operates prisons in Iraq.
b) Smith is a spokesman for the US Army’s 800th Military Police Brigade, which operates prisons in Iraq.

2.
a) Unlike other Bay Area chocolateurs, who buy chocolate in bulk to make their own candies, Jones’s company makes its own chocolate from the bean.
b) Unlike other Bay Area chocolateurs who buy chocolate in bulk to make their own candies, Jones’s company makes its own chocolate from the bean.

3.
a) It’s true especially for younger employees, who are more likely to be exploited at work.
b) It’s true especially for younger employees who are more likely to be exploited at work.

4.
a) The winner is a modular modernist home being constructed by a company in Centerville, which uses a modular system to create custom homes.
b) The winner is a modular modernist home being constructed by a company in Centerville that uses a modular system to create custom homes.

5.
a) The studio’s annex, located across the street, carries similar artwork in a smaller space.
b) The studio’s annex across the street carries similar artwork in a smaller space.

Answers and Explanations

1.
b) Smith is a spokesman for the US Army’s 800th Military Police Brigade, which operates prisons in Iraq.

The use of that implies that two or more military units using the same name, one of which operates prisons in Iraq, exist. When which, preceded by a comma, is used, the statement clearly identifies Smith’s unit and explains its role without suggesting that the US military is careless in assigning identical names to more than one unit.

2.
a) Unlike other Bay Area chocolateurs, who buy chocolate in bulk to make their own candies, Jones’s company makes its own chocolate from the bean.

The sentence without a parenthetical phrase implies that Jones is among the Bay Area chocolateurs who buy chocolate in bulk, but the point of the sentence is that he makes his own, so the reference to the practice of Jones’s competitors doesn’t apply to him and should therefore be set off from the rest of the sentence.

3.
a) It’s true especially for younger employees, who are more likely to be exploited at work.

This sentence refers to the fact that younger employees as a group are more often subject to exploitation; it doesn’t pertain to a subgroup of younger workers. Therefore, the second half of the sentence must be set off from the second to indicate that it applies to all younger employees.

4.
b) The winner is a modular modernist home being constructed by a company in Centerville that uses a modular system to create custom homes.

In the version that includes which preceded by a comma, the placement of Centerville implies that it, not the company, uses the modular system. The sentence, however, refers to one of multiple companies in Centerville and what it does, so no internal punctuation is necessary.

5.
a) The studio’s annex, located across the street, carries similar artwork in a smaller space.

The lack of internal punctuation suggests that more than one studio annex exists, but the sentence identifies the only annex and where it is located, so the location must be set off from the rest of the sentence as a nonessential element.

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