Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Modifiers


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Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Modifiers

LESSON: A modifying element that follows a noun is set off by commas if it does not restrict the meaning of the noun. The commas mean that what they surround is not essential identifying information.

EXAMPLE: One Way Rider, who sang last night at YSU, is one of this area's treasures.

The folk group who sang last night at YSU is one of this area's treasures.

The second sentence has no commas because the information in the WHO clause cannot be left out. Nothing else in the sentence identifies which group is being referred to. Such a word group is said to "restrict," "specify," or "limit" the meaning of what it modifies. When people talk about grammar they call this kind of modifier "restrictive." Only restrictive modifiers are not set off by commas.