Another way to create complex sentences is to use relative clauses. Again, this will connect an independent clause to a dependent one.

There are two types of relative clause: defining and non-defining.

Both clauses can begin with the relative pronouns which, who, whom, where and whose, but only defining relative clauses can use the relative pronoun that.

Defining relative clauses

Defining relative clauses tell the reader which person or thing the statement is referring to. As they define the noun, the noun becomes unclear when the clause is removed. For example:

The report that looked in to the current economic downturn was controversial. (we know which report)
The report was controversial. (we don't know which report because the report was not defined)

Defining relative clauses come straight after the noun they define. They do not need a comma to separate them from the rest of the sentence. Below are some examples from the model essays on this site.

These days, tasks that used to require face-to-face interaction (such as shopping and working) can now be easily achieved at a distance using computers or mobile phones.

Perhaps the most clear evidence that schools are failing to educate about health is the alarming increase in teenage obesity seen in many countries around the world.

Non-defining relative clauses

Non-defining relative clauses give extra information about the subject or object of the independent clause without defining it. The information in the relative clause is not essential to the understanding of the independent clause.

These clauses connect using the relative pronouns which, who, whom, where and whose. Often the relative clause can be placed in the middle of the independent clause (separated by commas or brackets) or after it.

Young people, who are often the highest spenders, like to listen to music while they shop.
Research conducted by Oxford University (which is the leading authority on the subject) found little evidence to support the claim.
The population of the UK, whose average age is more than 45, voted to leave the EU.

Relative clauses are an effective way to write the result or meaning of an action. This is very useful in IELTS Task Two essays.

Young people enjoy listening to loud music, which is annoying for their neighbours.
The government decided to restrict travel for the entire province, which affected almost 50 million people

Below are some examples from the model essays on this site.

This situation enables countries to take advantage of resources they have available or to sell more products specific to their regions, which increases international trade and benefits global economies.

Similarly, stories of trustworthiness also make the news, such as returning large sums of lost money, which is an act that many people would consider extremely worthy

Advanced relative clauses

At the top end of the difficulty scale there are some non-defining relative pronouns that can really stand out in an IELTS essay. However, test-takers should exercise caution. Do not try to force these examples into an essay. Rather, if the opportunity arises and you have learnt them well…smile, write, and know that the examiner will notice.


Many people will choose to believe the government, whatever happens.

Whichever methods are approved, global temperatures will still rise above the two degree threshold.

The school policy in Japan, whereby students are forced to dye their hair black, has caused distress to students with European ethnicity.

The next president of the UN, whoever is elected, will have to work towards a ceasefire in the region.

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