Relative Clause ESL Lesson Plan

Use of Relative Clauses at Work

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Relative clauses are used to describe the noun naming the process or position when discussing tasks that need to be completed, or explaining how certain things work. The ability to use relative clauses easily is important to all English learners, but perhaps even more important to those wanting to use English in their workplaces. For example, salespeople need to explain and define anything relating to the use of the goods or services being sold:

  • The Instaplug is a device that allows you to use any type of outlet throughout the world.
  • Our Ontime Service is a type of consulting which allows you to access consulting services 24/7.
  • The Sansolat Tile is a roofing tile which reflects sunlight in order to keep air conditioning costs down.

Another example would be of the use of relative clauses to describe people at work:

  • You'll need to speak to Mr. Adams who is ​in charge of vacation and sick leave requests.
  • Jack Wanders is the union organizer who represents this region.
  • We need consultants who can travel anywhere on 24-hour notice.

This lesson plan focuses on helping students learn to use relative clauses to discuss important issues at work such as who works with them, various types of work and workplaces, as well as describing goods or services manufactured or provided by their employer.


Building confidence in using relative clauses to describe goods, services, personnel and other related workplace situations.


Sentence matching, followed by a guided writing exercise


Intermediate to advanced English for Specific Purposes learners


Introduce students to the topic of using relative clauses by asking a few questions such as:

  • How would you describe a blue collar worker?
  • What's full time work?
  • Who is a consultant?
  • What is a computer lab?

These questions should elicit a number of responses, hopefully, a few with competent use of relative clauses. Make sure to rephrase student answers throughout using relative clauses to help inductively introduce the idea of relative clause use. For example:

  • Oh, full time work is a type of work which takes place for at least 40 hours a week.
  • Good, yes, a consultant is someone who provides services and advice to a company on a contractual basis. etc.

Once you have completed this warm-up, write four sentences on the board. Use one sentence with a relative clause referring a person with 'that' and one with 'who'. The other two sentences should refer to things; one beginning with 'that' and the other with 'which'. Ask students to point out these differences and explain why 'which' or 'who' is used, as well as what. As far as is possible, try to coax the students into inductively stating the rules for relative clause use.

Ask students to complete the sentences in the exercise below by choosing the two halves that go together and connecting each with a relative pronoun (who, which or that).

Check answers as a class.

For the next part of the lesson, ask students to imagine ten items or people that are important to them in day-to-day work. Students should first write a list of the ten items/people. On another sheet of paper, ask students to write explanatory sentences using relative clauses.

Have students exchange their ten-item lists with a partner. Students should then practice explaining these items to each other using relative clauses. Students should not simply read what they have written, but try to use their examples as a starting point. Encourage students to ask probing questions based on the information they hear.

Circulate about the room and help students. Once the exercise is finished, go over common mistakes you've heard while listening to student pair work.

Matching Halves

Match the first half of the sentence in List A with the appropriate phrase in List B to complete the definition. Use an appropriate relative pronoun (who, which or that) to connect the two sentences.

List A

  • A supervisor is a person
  • I have difficulties with bosses
  • Office Suite is a group of programs
  • Success on the road can be assisted by the cloud
  • The human resources director is the liaison
  • Use the ratchet as a tool
  • Internal office communications are handled by our company forum
  • You'll find that Anita is a person
  • I couldn't get my work done without Daren
  • Taplist is an app

List B

  • you can contact to resolve contract issues.
  • can tighten a wide variety of nuts and bolts.
  • provides a friendly place to post questions, make comments and discuss issues.
  • I use to keep track of all my mileage, meals and other work expenses.
  • allows me to access documents and other data from a wide range of devices.
  • do not take my point of view into consideration.
  • is willing to help with any problem you may have.
  • assists me with day-to-day tasks.
  • directs employees working in a team.
  • is used for word processing, creating spreadsheets and presentations.
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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Relative Clause ESL Lesson Plan." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Beare, Kenneth. (2023, April 5). Relative Clause ESL Lesson Plan. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Relative Clause ESL Lesson Plan." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).