Definition of restrictive in US English:



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

    ‘a web of restrictive regulations’
    • ‘However, public or community-wide celebrations are not the only occasions on which people enjoy less restrictive forms of alcohol consumption.’
    • ‘Optimistically we can hope that these sorts of regulations will be less restrictive in the future.’
    • ‘The restrictive Immigration Act of 1924 reflected the isolationism prevalent in America between the World Wars.’
    • ‘Increasing pressures have been felt by the regulatory agencies from many quarters to develop regulations that are rigorous but not overly restrictive.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘For architects and builders, the freedom from restrictive regulations has encouraged an experimental approach to design.’
    • ‘Many of the funds limit investments to only a few choices, which can be restrictive as a hands-on approach to investment management.’
    • ‘The Credit Union Act 1997 regulates the operation of credit unions and is highly restrictive in terms of how credit unions can operate.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Some European institutions, like the British Museum, were originally very restrictive, requiring references and allowing only gentlemen to visit.’
    • ‘The modular plan, the most restrictive, offers employees a limited number of fixed benefit sets.’
    • ‘Personal freedom might not involve stepping out of a restrictive environment, but could lie in accepting where you naturally belong.’
    • ‘Both employers and workers were to be further protected from unfair competition by restrictive immigration regulations.’
    • ‘Little remains of restrictive Sunday laws; in state schools the norm is even-handedness between religions, and between religion and no religion.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Evidence of greater activity at a roadside cross may be a result of restrictive cemetery policy.’
    • ‘No other intrusive or restrictive regulation is needed.’
    • ‘For the food trade, this signalled a continuation of a restrictive system of permits, selected food rationing and coupon cutting.’
    • ‘‘Let's not tie science's hands through excessively restrictive regulations,’ he said.’
    • ‘This means that we have restrictive choice at the point of sale.’
    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 that 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 specific books (i.e., the ones on the table) in contrast with all others. In the second sentence, the location of the books referred to is unaffected by the relative clause: the speaker merely offers the additional information that the books happened to be on the table. This distinction is between restrictive and nonrestrictive relative clauses. In speech, the difference is usually expressed by a difference in intonation. In writing, a restrictive relative clause is not set off by commas, and that is the preferred subject or object of the clause, although many writers use which and who or whom for such clauses. A nonrestrictive clause is set off within commas, and which, who, or whom, not that, is the relative pronoun to use as the subject or object of the verb of the clause. Without a comma, the clause in please ask any member of the staff who will be pleased to help is restrictive and therefore implies contrast with another set of staff who will not be pleased to help. It is almost certain that the appropriate intention of such a clause would be nonrestrictive—therefore, a comma is needed before who (please ask any member of the staff, who will be pleased to help you). For more details, see that and which