Relative clauses

Relative clauses are expressions which describe or help specify a noun. They are very like whole sentences, having components such as verbs, subject, and so on. In English they are typically introduced with words like ‘who, which, that, whose’, called relative pronouns.

The phrase ‘the house that Jack built’ is about a particular house, so the word ‘house’ is called the ‘head’. The expression ‘that Jack built’ specifies which house is being referred to, it is introduced by the relative pronoun ‘that’ and has its own subject ‘Jack’ and verb ‘built’.

As in English, so in Māori, the relative clauses occur after the noun they specify. An important difference though is that Māori has no relative pronouns. This section will illustrate some of the main types of relative clause in Māori.

Ko tēnei te whare i hangaia e Haki.
This is the house which was built by Jack.
(Here the relative clause is a passive sentence.)

Ko Tūrangawaewae te marae i tū ai te hui.
Tūrangawaewae is the marae where the hui took place.
(In relative clauses about places and times, the partticle ‘ai’ very frequently follows the verb, see ‘ai’.)

Ko ‘Pōkarekare ana’ anake te waiata Māori e mōhio nei ia.

The only Māori song which s/he knows is ‘Pōkarekare ana’.

Ko Māui te tangata nāna i hī ake tēnei motu.
The person who fished up this island was Māui.
(In this last example, the relative clause has the form of an Agent Emphatic sentence.)