ESL Adjective Clauses: Activities & Games

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Sometimes ESL (English as a Second Language) students find the ins and outs of English grammar confusing. This lesson will alleviate some of those feelings by providing teachers with classroom activities designed to teach adjective clauses.

Explaining the Adjective Clause

Before using the activities in this lesson, give your students a quick and simple review of both adjectives and clauses.

Adjective: a word that describes a noun, such as the friendly dog or the tall fence.

Clause: two or more words.

Basically, an adjective clause gives a description of a noun and often begins with a pronoun or an adverb.


  • Who (My sister, who is older than me, is a great athlete.)
  • Whom / Whose (I know someone whose cousin is famous.)
  • That (The TV that is in the living room is broken.)
  • Which (Valencia, which is a type of orange, is great for making juice.)


  • When (Last Saturday, when it was raining, I fell off my bike.)
  • Where (The gym, where I go twice a week, will shut down soon.)
  • Why (Fear of heights is the main reason why my mother doesn't like tall buildings.)

Remind your students that because an adjective clause does not express a complete thought, it is not a sentence. An adjective clause has to be connected to a main clause to form a complete sentence, as shown in this example: When I finish my homework, I often eat pizza.

  • Adjective clause: when I finish my homework
  • Simple sentence / main clause: I often eat pizza

Insert the Clause

In this activity, students will insert a missing clause into a sentence. First, write the following sentences on the blackboard. Sample answers are in parenthesis. If needed, simplify the language to meet student needs.

  1. My best friend, _____, is very nice. (who is the same age as me)
  2. China, _____, is a place I'd like to visit. (where many people live)
  3. Cell phones, _____, can be very distracting in class. (which every student has)
  4. English, _____, is important for many jobs. (which is a popular second language)
  5. Never having enough free seats is _____. (why I never ride the subway)
  6. Last summer, _____, I had a lot of fun. (when I went to the beach)
  7. My aunt is a woman _____. (who is always trying new things)
  8. _____ I always take a shower. (When it is humid outside,)
  9. _____ is a common question for many students. (Where to go to college)
  10. _____ was not very fun. (That old rollercoaster)

Next, choose a few students to come up to the front and fill in the missing information. Then, have a class discussion about the correctness of the adjective clauses students wrote on the board, and fix any errors. You can also ask for volunteers to write their own original adjective clause-less sentences on the board for the class to try.

Adjective Clause Race

  1. Put students into small teams.
  2. Ensure that every team has one copy of the same book. Any textbook or literary book should work.
  3. Say a page number aloud, and set a timer for 30 seconds (or longer for lower level students.) Keep repeating this process for subsequent rounds.
  4. Each team must open its book to the page number you called, and find as many adjective clauses as possible before time is up.
  5. After time expires, ask each team how many adjective clauses they found. Check the accuracy of their answers, and award a point to the team who found the most.
  6. Alternatively, you could have teams keep a list of the adjective clauses throughout the game, and then collect and check the lists at the end of the game.
  7. Keep playing until you feel it is time to crown a winning team!

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