A clause is a group of words that has a subject and a predicate. In this lesson, we will discuss clauses in English grammar.
What Are Clauses?
What is the Difference Between a Clause and a Sentence?
A sentence is a group of words that convey a complete meaning and has a complete grammatical structure. A clause is a group of words that must have at least a subject and a verb. So when a clause has complete meaning and can stand alone, it functions as a sentence. Look at the examples below:
When he walked into the room
a clause that does not have a complete meaning
His mother waved to him.
a clause that has a complete meaning, so it is a sentence
When he walked into the room, his mother waved to him.
a sentence that has two clauses
Although we said that a clause must contain a subject and a verb, it is possible that a clause does not need a subject or a verb. Look at the sentences below:
In this clause, the subject is not mentioned, but it is clear that the subject is 'you.'
In the first clause, the subject and the verb are not mentioned, but it is clear that the complete sentence is 'Are you ready now?'
In the first clause, the verb and the subject are not mentioned. The complete sentence is 'Although I am disappointed, I will continue to fight for my dreams.'
What is the Difference Between a Clause and a Phrase?
Phrases are groups of words that contain a head and its dependents. The head of a phrase determines the part of speech of that phrase.
So, a phrase can be a noun, a verb, an adjective, etc. Look at the sentences below:
the house on the corner
The house on the corner is mine.
Types of Clauses Based on Their Dependency
Whether clauses have complete meaning or not, we can categorize them into two groups:
Independent clauses (also called main clauses) have complete meaning and can form sentences on their own. Their meaning is not dependent on other clauses. They are always finite; they must have a verb that shows tense. Look at the examples:
Although I try to be nice to her,
If you need some help,
Coordination of Independent Clauses
We can use coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, so, yet, and for) to form sentences by combining independent clauses. Look at the examples:
She made some lasagna
Dependent clauses cannot form sentences on their own. They are dependent on main clauses to form sentences. Look at the examples:
We couldn't play outside
Types of Dependent Clauses Based on Their Structure
Based on the structure of dependent clauses, we can categorize them into three groups:
Subordinate clauses are a type of dependent clauses that have a subordinating conjunction at the beginning. Look at the examples:
A relative clause is a type of dependent clause that starts with a relative pronoun. As you may know, relative pronouns in English are which, that, whom, whose, when, where, and who. Look at the examples:
Non-finite clauses are a type of dependent clauses. The verb in non-finite clauses does not show tense or time. The verb in non-finite clauses can be:
Look at the examples:
She left the house
Types of participles
It is important to know that we have two kinds of participles:
I talked on the phone
Types of Infinitives
Note that we have two kinds of infinitives:
- Bare infinitive (infinitive without to)
My family sent me a postcard
She made me
Types of Dependent Clauses Based on Their Part of Speech
Dependent clauses can have three distinct grammatical functions (parts of speech). Based on their part of speech, we have three groups of dependent clauses:
Noun clauses are dependent clauses that function as nouns and like any other noun, they can be a subject, an object, a subject complement, an object of a preposition, or an adjective complement. Often, they begin with words like how, that, what, when, where, which, clauses with the present participle, and why. Noun clauses can be nominal relatives, infinitive clauses, or clauses with the present participle. For example:
present participle - subject
I want her
infinitive clause - object
The doctor's solution was
nominal relative - subject complement
The article is about
present participle - object of a preposition
My mother is worried
nominal relative - adjective complement
Adjective clauses are dependent clauses that function as adjectives and add to the meaning of nouns and pronouns. Adjective clauses usually begin with pronouns such as who, whose, that, or which. For example:
participle clause – present participle
participle clause – past participle
Adverb (also called adverbial) clauses are dependent clauses that function as adverbs. They add to the meaning of verbs, other adverbs, or adjectives.
Adverb clauses talk about when, where, why, how, how much, or under what circumstances the action of the sentence takes place. Look at the sentences:
I should go on a diet
A clause is a group of words that must contain a subject and a predicate. Every complete sentence has at least one clause.
Types of Clauses based on their Dependency
- Independent Clauses = They have complete meaning and can form sentences on their own.
- Dependent Clauses = They cannot form sentences on their own.
- What Are Clauses?
- What is the Difference Between a Clause and a Sentence?
- What is the Difference Between a Clause and a Phrase?