Definition of restrictive in English:



  • 1Imposing restrictions on someone's activities or freedom.

    ‘a web of restrictive regulations’
    • ‘Glancing over at the table laden with food, Miranda spied a favorite treat of hers, and she hurried over as quickly as her restrictive skirt would allow her.’
    • ‘‘Let's not tie science's hands through excessively restrictive regulations,’ he said.’
    • ‘However, public or community-wide celebrations are not the only occasions on which people enjoy less restrictive forms of alcohol consumption.’
    • ‘The Credit Union Act 1997 regulates the operation of credit unions and is highly restrictive in terms of how credit unions can operate.’
    • ‘For the food trade, this signalled a continuation of a restrictive system of permits, selected food rationing and coupon cutting.’
    • ‘For architects and builders, the freedom from restrictive regulations has encouraged an experimental approach to design.’
    • ‘Increasing pressures have been felt by the regulatory agencies from many quarters to develop regulations that are rigorous but not overly restrictive.’
    • ‘Personal freedom might not involve stepping out of a restrictive environment, but could lie in accepting where you naturally belong.’
    • ‘The restrictive Immigration Act of 1924 reflected the isolationism prevalent in America between the World Wars.’
    • ‘Little remains of restrictive Sunday laws; in state schools the norm is even-handedness between religions, and between religion and no religion.’
    • ‘Some European institutions, like the British Museum, were originally very restrictive, requiring references and allowing only gentlemen to visit.’
    • ‘This means that we have restrictive choice at the point of sale.’
    • ‘The modular plan, the most restrictive, offers employees a limited number of fixed benefit sets.’
    • ‘The solution is to have a risk management system in place, where restrictive measures are put in place commensurate with risk level of a particular substance.’
    • ‘No other intrusive or restrictive regulation is needed.’
    • ‘Both employers and workers were to be further protected from unfair competition by restrictive immigration regulations.’
    • ‘Thanks to restrictive clauses in dealer warranties, many new-car owners have no choice but to have their vehicles serviced within a single dealer franchise.’
    • ‘Evidence of greater activity at a roadside cross may be a result of restrictive cemetery policy.’
    • ‘Many of the funds limit investments to only a few choices, which can be restrictive as a hands-on approach to investment management.’
    • ‘Optimistically we can hope that these sorts of regulations will be less restrictive in the future.’
    select, chic, high-class, elite, fashionable, stylish, elegant, choice, special, premier, grade a
    View synonyms
  • 2Grammar
    (of a relative clause or descriptive phrase) serving to specify the particular instance or instances being mentioned.

    • ‘The semantic distinction between restrictive and non-restrictive modification applies to adjectives that modify nouns as well as to relative clauses.’
    • ‘The problem is that few people have followed these rules systematically, and you can find lots of examples where the relative pronoun which is used to start a restrictive clause.’


What is the difference between the books which were on the table once belonged to my aunt and the books, which were on the table, once belonged to my aunt? In the first sentence the speaker uses the relative clause to pick out a subset of books (the ones on the table) and imply a contrast with some other set of books. In the second sentence the size of the set of books referred to is unaffected by the relative clause; the speaker merely offers the additional information that they happen to be on the table. This distinction is between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses. In writing, a non-restrictive relative clause is set off within commas, while in speech the difference is expressed by a difference in intonation. Ignorance of the distinction can lead to unintentionally comic effects: for example, strictly speaking, the relative clause in if you are in need of assistance, please ask any member of staff who will be pleased to help implies contrast with another set of staff who will not be pleased to help. A comma is needed before who