Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Participial Phrases

May 22, 2021

Definition: A phrase is restrictive (also called essential) if it narrows down the word it modifies. It tells which one of a noun you are writing about. A restrictive phrase is necessary to the meaning of the sentence. Restrictive phrases do not have commas around them.

The man wearing the white jacket is our coach.
There are several men. Wearing the white jacket restricts which man is the coach. If we take the phrase out, we don’t know who the coach is.

Definition: A phrase is nonrestrictive (also called nonessential) if we know exactly who or what is being written about without the phrase. A nonrestrictive phrase is simply adding extra information. Nonrestrictive phrases need commas around them.

Mr. Davis, wearing a white jacket, is our coach.
We know Mr. Davis is the coach. We are adding that he is wearing a white jacket. If we take the phrase out, we still know that Mr. Davis is the coach.