Clauses in English Grammar: Definition, Types and Examples

A clause is a collection of words that have both a subject and a predicate. The subject, which can be a noun or pronoun, is the focus of the clause, while the predicate contains the verb and typically conveys information about the subject’s action or state. Clauses can be independent or dependent, playing different roles in constructing sentences. Understanding how clauses work is crucial for crafting sentences that are both clear and impactful.

What are Clauses in English Grammar?

When you write a sentence in English, you use clauses. Clauses are the groups of words that include both a subject and a verb. For example, “She sings” is a clause (Here, “she” is the subject, and “sings” is the verb). Clauses in English can be either independent or dependent. Independent clauses can stand alone as sentences, but dependent clauses need another clause to complete them. For example, “She sings because she loves music” has one independent clause (“She sings”) and one dependent clause (“because she loves music”).

Uses of Clauses

  • Clauses in English help us show connections between ideas, adding more details to what we are saying.
  • We can make our sentences more interesting and informative using different types of clauses.
  • Clauses also help us give context and explain how different parts of a sentence relate to each other.
  • We can make compound and complex sentences by joining clauses that can stand alone and clauses that depend on others.

Clause vs Phrase

Clauses and phrases are both groups of words, but they play distinct roles in a sentence. A clause, as mentioned earlier, is a group of words with a subject and a predicate, forming a complete thought that can stand alone as a sentence. For example, in the sentence “She loves to read,” the clause “She loves to read” stands independently, conveying a full idea.

On the other hand, a phrase is a group of words that functions as a single unit within a sentence. Unlike a clause, a phrase lacks a subject and predicate, and it doesn’t convey a complete thought by itself. Take, for instance, the phrase “Under the shining sun” in the sentence “We enjoyed a picnic in the park under the shining sun.” It acts as a descriptive unit but doesn’t form a complete thought independently.

Types of Clauses

Now, let’s talk about the different types of clauses in English. Understanding and using these different types of clauses can make your writing more interesting and help you express ideas more clearly.

Independent Clauses

An independent clause, also known as a main clause, can stand alone as a complete sentence. It expresses a complete thought and doesn’t depend on any other clause to make sense.

  • Example: “She went to the store.”
  • Example: “The sun set behind the mountains.”

Dependent Clauses

A dependent clause, also referred to as a subordinate clause, cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. It relies on an independent clause to express a complete idea.

  • Example: “Although she was tired,” (This clause is dependent and needs to be combined with an independent clause to make sense, e.g., “Although she was tired, she went to the store.”)

Noun Clauses

Noun clauses are groups of words that function as a single noun within a sentence. They can act as either the subject or object of a sentence, providing essential information to the overall meaning.

  • Example: “I don’t know where the keys are.” (Here, the noun clause “where the keys are” functions as the direct object of the verb “know.”)
  • Example: “What she said surprised everyone.” (In this sentence, the noun clause “What she said” acts as the subject.)

Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses are dependent clauses that function as adjectives within a sentence. These clauses provide additional information about a noun and usually begin with a relative pronoun (who, which, that, whose).

  • Example: “The book that I bought is interesting.” (The adjective clause “that I bought” identifies and provides more information about the noun “book,” indicating which book is being referred to.)
  • Example: This is the girl whose brother is a famous actor. (The adjective clause “whose brother is a famous actor” indicates possession and provides information about the noun “girl.”)

Adverb Clauses

Adverb clauses are dependent clauses that function as adverbs within a sentence. They provide additional information about the manner, time, place, condition, or reason of the action in the main (independent) clause.  

  • Example: Because she studied hard, Maria excelled in the exam. (The adverb clause “Because she studied hard” offers information about the reason behind Maria excelling in the exam in the main clause).
  • Example: They went to the park where they could relax. (The adverb clause “where they could relax” explains the place where the action in the main clause (going to the park) occurred.)

Concessive Clause

A concessive clause is a type of dependent clause that expresses a concession or contrast to the main (independent) clause in a sentence. Concessive clauses are often introduced by subordinating conjunctions such as “although,” “even though,” “while,” “though,” or “despite.”

  • Example: While he is talented, he still faces challenges in his career. (The concessive clause “While he is talented” introduces a contrasting idea to the main clause, indicating that despite his talent, challenges persist in his career.)
  • Example: Though it’s expensive, I decided to buy the latest smartphone. (The concessive clause “Though it’s expensive” presents a contrary situation to the main clause, suggesting that despite the high cost, the decision to purchase the latest smartphone was made.)

Relative Clause

A relative clause is a type of adjective clause that begins with a relative pronoun (such as who, whom, whose, which, or that) and provides additional information about a noun.  

  • Example: The girl who is sitting at the desk is my best friend. (In this sentence, the relative clause “who is sitting at the desk” modifies the noun “girl.” It provides additional information about which girl is being referred to, specifying her location.)
  • Example: The restaurant that serves Italian cuisine is our favorite. (The relative clause “that serves Italian cuisine” specifies the type of restaurant, offering additional information about the noun “restaurant.”)

How to Combine Clauses

In English, there are several ways to combine clauses. Let’s explore some simple techniques to combine clauses and make our sentences clear and engaging.

  1. Coordination (Coordinating Conjunctions):
    • We use coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet) to combine two independent clauses. Always use a comma before the conjunction.
    • Example: “Maya loves reading books, but she doesn’t have much time.”
  2. Subordination (Subordinating Conjunctions):
    • We use subordinating conjunctions (although, because, since, if, when, while, etc.) to combine an independent clause with a dependent clause. Usually, the dependent clause comes after the independent clause in a sentence.
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    • Example: “He went to the store because he needed groceries.”
  3. Relative Pronouns:
    • We can use relative pronouns (who, whom, whose, which, that) to introduce adjective clauses. These clauses provide additional information about a noun.
    • Example: “The girl who is wearing a red dress is my friend.”
  4. Participial Phrases:
    • We can also use participial phrases (verb forms ending in -ing or -ed) to modify a noun in an independent or dependent clause.
    • Example: “Excited about the news, she called her friends.”

Examples of How to Use a Clause in a Sentence

Here are some examples of how to use different types of clauses in sentences:

  • My daughter enjoys painting. (Independent Clause)
  • Because it was raining, they decided to stay indoors. (Dependent Clause)
  • What he said surprised everyone. (Noun Clause)
  • The book that she recommended (Adjective Clause)
  • While they were studying, the phone rang. (Adverb Clause)
  • She likes coffee, but he prefers tea. (Combining two independent clauses with the coordinating conjunction “but.”)
  • Since it was a holiday, they decided to go on a trip. (Combining an independent clause with a dependent clause using the subordinating conjunction “since.”)

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Clauses in English Grammar.

What is a Clause?

A clause is a set of words that includes a subject and a verb, forming a complete thought that can stand alone as a sentence.

What are the two main types of clauses?

The two main types of clauses are independent clauses and dependent clauses. An independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence, while a dependent clause relies on the independent clause for meaning.

What are the examples of clauses?

Examples of clauses include:
Independent Clause: “She loves to dance.”
Dependent Clause: “Because he finished his homework.”

How to use a clause in a sentence?

To use a clause in a sentence, you can incorporate it as part of a larger sentence or let it stand alone if it’s an independent clause. Ensure that the clause contributes to the overall meaning and structure of the sentence.

Can a sentence have more than one clause?

Yes, a sentence can have more than one clause. When you combine two or more clauses, you form complex or compound sentences.

What is the difference between an independent and a dependent clause?

An independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence, conveying a full idea. In contrast, a dependent clause relies on the independent clause for meaning and cannot stand alone as a complete sentence.

Can you provide examples of compound sentences formed by combining clauses?

An example of a compound sentence formed by combining two independent clauses is: “She loves to read, but he prefers to watch movies.”

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