Clauses

A clause is a group of words that has a subject and a predicate. In this lesson, we will discuss clauses in English grammar.

"Clauses" in the English Grammar

What Are Clauses?

A clause is a group of words that must contain a subject and a predicate. Every complete sentence has at least one clause. A clause must have a verb.

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

Tip

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:

Stop making noise!

In this clause, the subject is not mentioned, but it is clear that the subject is 'you.'

Ready now? It's time to go!

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?'

Although disappointed, I will continue to fight for my dreams.

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

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:

We couldn't play outside because it was raining.

Although I try to be nice to her, she doesn't seem to like me.

If you need some help, give me a call.

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 and put it in the fridge.

Hurry up or you'll miss the train.

Dependent Clauses

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 because it was raining.

Although I try to be nice to her, she doesn't seem to like me.

If you need some help, give me a call.

Types of Dependent Clauses Based on Their Structure

Based on the structure of dependent clauses, we can categorize them into three groups:

Subordinate Clauses

Subordinate clauses are a type of dependent clauses that have a subordinating conjunction at the beginning. Look at the examples:

Because it was raining, we couldn't go to the park.

If you want, I will send you an email about the subject.

Relative Clauses

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:

The dog that stole my shoes returned to my place.

Carl, who is the sales manager of our company, got promoted this month.

using a relative clause in a sentence

Non-finite Clauses

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:

Finding nothing in the fridge, he ordered a pizza.

a participle

She left the house to go shopping.

an infinitive

Types of participles

It is important to know that we have two kinds of participles:

Having lived through hard times, they were inseparable.

past participle

I talked on the phone walking back from work.

present participle

Types of Infinitives

Note that we have two kinds of infinitives:

My family sent me a postcard to wish me a happy new year.

To-infinitive

She made me cry.

Bare infinitive

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

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:

Seeing him that day changed my life.

present participle - subject

I want her to love me.

infinitive clause - object

The doctor's solution was that the patient rest more.

nominal relative - subject complement

The article is about talking in front of a large group of people.

present participle - object of a preposition

My mother is worried that I don't get good marks.

nominal relative - adjective complement

Adjective Clauses

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:

Love that is pure will last forever.

relative clause

Yoga, which many people do, is good for you.

relative clause

The girl, dancing in the red dress, is my cousin.

participle clause – present participle

The man, worried by the news, ran out of the room.

participle clause – past participle

Adverb Clauses

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:

When tomorrow comes, your dream will come true.

My sister, although she is a teacher, doesn't like children.

After you are done with your homework, we can watch a movie.

I should go on a diet in order to lose weight.

Review

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.

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Phrases

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Relative Clauses

Relative clauses give us more information about people and things. They are used to combine clauses and avoid repetition. Click here to learn!

Verb Phrases

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Nominal Relative Clauses

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Prepositional Phrases

What are prepositional phrases? Generally, as its name requires, prepositional phrases are phrases made of prepositions. To get to know them, read the article.

Dependent Clauses

Dependent clauses are clauses that cannot form sentences on their own. In this lesson, we will learn all about dependent clauses.

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