A study on Relative Clause in English, Indonesian and Arabic Language: A Comparative Analysis

Dharmawati Dharmawati(1*), Mulyadi Mulyadi(2)
(1) Universitas Sumatera Utara
(2) Universitas Sumatera Utara
(*) Corresponding Author
DOI : 10.24256/ideas.v9i1.1804


The research is conducted to an analysis on relative clause in three languages. The aim of this paper is to compare of relative clause in three languages, namely Indonesian, English and Arabic. The research stage in analyzing the data was data collection, data classifying, data presenting. The result of the research is similarities and differences in the structure of relative clause in English, Indonesian and Arabic. Types of relative clause in English are defining and non-defining clauses, types of relative clause in Indonesian are Restrictive and Non-Restrictive relative clause and types of relative clause in Arabic are definite and indefinite relative clause.


Relative Clause, Language, Comparative Analysis


Relative Clause in English

A relative clause in English is introduced by using a relative pronoun who, whom, which, that or whose or by a relative adverb where, when or why. There are two types of relative clause in English. They are:

a. Defining Relative Clause

Defining relative clauses are also called by identifying relative clauses. It give detailed information defining a general term or expression. Defining relative clauses are not put in commas.

Data 1

- The boy who answered my question was Kaka.

- The magazine which you lent me was very Interesting.

- I gave a tip to the waiter who serve us.

In these sentences, the relative clause is an important part of the idea. they show which Kaka of a number of boys, which magazine of thousands of magazine, which porter of several porters.

So this type of clauses are called by Definite clauses.

b. Non-defining Relative Clause

Non-defining relative clauses are also called by non-identifying relative clauses or nonrestrictive relative clauses. They give additional information on something but do not define it. Non-defining relative clauses are put in commas.

Data 2

- The woman, who is standing there, is a teacher.

- Jamilah, who submit the article, was born in 1988.

The relative clause in these examples are put in comas because they give extra information and also it can be deleted without changing the meaning. And the new sentence will be the woman is a teacher and Jamilah was born in 1988.

Relative Clause in Indonesian

A relative clause in Indonesian is a subordinative clause which is attributive in nature. Attributive subordination (embed) relationship is realized with a noun phrase that will drive an expansion of one of dependent elements as antecedent. That is, as a subordinative clause, the relative clause is in charge of describing it and/ or modify the meaning expressed in Antecedent. Relative clauses in Indonesian is divided into two, namely:

a. Restrictive relative clause

Restrictive relative clauses give information that defines the noun, it modifies noun. The information is necessary to complete identification of the noun. Use “that” or “which” for non-human nouns; use “that” or “who” for human nouns and comma isn’t needed.

Data 3

The Students whose grades are high can pass the examination

Siswa-siswa yang nilainya tinggi dapat lulus ujian.

When a noun becomes the object of a preposition, the noun and its presposition are moved in front of relative clause.

b. Non-Restrictive relative clause

A non-restrictive relative clause modifys a single noun, a noun phrase, or an entire proposition. It merely provides extra information. “That” cannot be used as a relative pronoun in a non-restrictive relative clause and commas are always used at the beginning and end of this type of relative clause.

Data 4

I’m planning to build a house. I design house quite big.

(Saya sedang merencanakan membangun sebuah rumah. Saya mendisain rumah cukup indah).

This sentence become

I’m planning to build a house, which I design quite big.

Relative Clause in Arabic

Relative clause in Arabic is a dependent clause which is introduced by a relative pronoun such as /ǝlǝði/= who, which, that or whose, /ǝlǝti/= who, which, that or whose, etc. There are also some types of relative clauses in Arabic language, they are:

a. Definite Relative Clause

Definite relative clause defines as a clause which indicates back to a definite antecedent uses the definite relative pronouns. The definite relative clause is dependent or subordinate, it cannot stand alone. It describes the definite antecedent in the independent clause. In Arabic, the independent clause which includes the antecedent before the dependent clause.

Data 5

يقف الرجال هناك بذكاء (yaqif alrijal hunak bidhaka')

The man who is standing there smart

Translation= The man who is standing there is smart

This sentence can be divided into two, they are:

The man is standing

The man is smart

b. Indefinite Relative Clause

An indefinite relative clause in Arabic is an indefinite antecedent. It is a clause which refers to an indefinite noun or noun phrase in the main clause, in which case the relative pronoun is omitted. The indefinite relative clause follows the main clause without any relative pronoun linking them.

Data 6

هو رجلٌ يعمل في مكتبة

He is a man who works in the library

In this sentence, “a man” is indefinite. The word “who” is a relative pronoun and refers to “a man”.

In the Arabic, there is no word for “who” because the antecedent, رجل is indefinite.

Relative clauses in Arabic, there are two types of relative clause in Arabic, namely definite and non-definite. Definite relative clause modifies a definite antecedent whereas non definite relative clause modifies a non-definite antecedent. There are eight essential relative pronouns in Arabic.


The process of contrastive analysis work is done by comparing some aspects of language in three languages (English, Indonesian and Arabic). According to Halliday (1970) describes that the contrastive analysis has two principles. The first is the examination level. The examination level is the observation level, the expalination of a case in a certain language. The second level is comparing certain patterns or certain aspects in a language. In this way, it doesn’t compare as a whole like in the first principle addressed or expressed how the process of language works and focus on aspects to be compared. In the process of contrastive analysis, a explaination of the focus or aspects of the language to be compared is performed. If it is described two focus or two aspects of the language part of the three languages certainly understanding the three languages is needed. In the second principle, it is has been stated that what is compared is only one aspect or focus of language. It means that It can’t be compared to three languages as a whole. In doing this study, the aspects of relative clauses in English, Indonesian and Arabic languages will be discussed. Because typologies and linguistic properties differ even in the relative focus of clauses, and not all parts of relative clauses can be compared.

Based on the explanations and data that have been stated, it is concluded that Relative Clauses is an element that interjects to other parts in complex sentences. Such relative clauses can be found in English Indonesian and Arabic language.

English, Indonesian and Arabic language has complex relative clauses. Based on the explaination above, we can analyze that the findings of comparative analysis from relative clause in English, Indonesian and Arabic can be concluded as seen on the table below:

Table 1. Comparison languages

Notes English Indonesian Arabic

Relative clause modifies the antecedent Yes Yes Yes

Type of Relative clause Defining

Non-Defining Restrictive

Non-Restrictive Definite


Relative Pronoun Yes Yes Yes (Omitted)

Who, whom, which, whose and that Relative Pronoun Konjungsi Connected

Relative Pronoun 5 1 8

Gender Agree Agree Do not Agree

Possessive relative pronoun Yes NO No

Object Can be ometted Can be ometted Can’t be omitted

Relative Clause Simple Simple Complecated

Relative adverbs which can be used to refer to place, time and Yes Yes No

The use of Comma in non-defining relative clauses Yes Yes No

Base on the comparison table above, it can be concluded that there are similarities and differences in the structure of relative clause in English, Indonesian and Arabic. But English and Indonesian are easier than Arabic in using relative clause.


Relative clauses can be found in English, Indonesian and also Arabic. Among these three languages Arabic is more complex in using relative clause. Types of relative clause in English are defining and non-defining clauses, types of relative clause in Indonesian are Restrictive and Non-Restrictive relative clause and types of relative clause in Arabic are definite and indefinite relative clause. There are some similarities and also differences of relative clause in the structure of English, Indonesian and Arabic.


The writer thanks goes to Dr. Mulyadi, M.Hum as the writer’s lecturer who has guided the writer in finishing this study. Thanks also to my best friend, Jamilah Lubis who had helped the writer to collect the data.


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