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Types of Clauses

This is probably not the first time that you’re hearing about clauses. They follow you all the way from your grammar classes till now. And just like the other concepts of English grammar, clauses are also very important in written English. There are different types of clauses; quite enough to confuse you, if not understood in detail. Sometimes, they may also appear overlapping, adding further confusion to your already perplexed mind. While referring to grammar notes, you may come across a number of clauses but, they are the subgroups of the two major clauses called independent and dependent clauses. So, as the first step to the world of clauses, it is better to learn about the basic groups of the clauses and their important subgroups. Once thorough with the basic grouping, you can proceed with more categories of clauses. So, for the time being, we will discuss about the independent and dependent clauses with examples. Read on!Clause
Before heading into the types of clauses, it is important to learn about clauses in general. What is a clause? In simple words, it is a group of words which acts as a single unit. Clause is generally built around a verb. By definition, “a clause is the smallest grammatical unit that can express a complete meaning”. Take the following example: “He lives in America”. This is a Clause, which is built around the verb “lives”.

Types Of Clauses
Clauses are broadly categorized into two major types:

Independent Clause
An Independent clause is capable of making or can make a sentence by itself, as it comprises of subject and verb and conveys a complete thought. Independent clause is an essential component in every sentence. And the absence of the same makes a group of words a mere fragment which is a major error in writing. Consider the example given below:

Tom works - This is an Independent clause as it contains a subject (Tom) and a verb (works) and also communicates a complete thought. As per English grammar rules, there should be at least one independent clause in a sentence. This indicates that there can be more than one independent clause in a sentence.

He is poor – This is an independent clause. Now consider another independent clause: He is unemployed. Now, these two independent clauses can be part of a sentence: He is poor because he is unemployed. Here, the two independent clauses are joined by the conjunction “because”.

Independent Clause Examples

  • Diane kicked the soda machine.
  • A giant spider has made its home behind the shampoo bottle in Neil’s bathroom.
  • Jenna and Michele are skipping their chemistry class to sit by the lake and watch the sun sparkle on the water.
  • I love penguins.
  • I drive a bus.
  • He memorized a poem last night
  • Mary will read narrate a story now
  • Many people enjoyed the party.
  • The assistant weighed the samples.
  • Our supervisor submitted the proposal.
  • The computer has two parallel ports.
  • Phyllis is one of our best engineers.
  • The cat is in the room
  • John hit his sister
Examples For Compound Sentences Made Of Two Independent Clauses
  • I am a doctor, and my wife is a lawyer.
  • I want to be a nurse, but I need to receive my science degree.
  • Joe waited for the train, but the train was late.
  • I looked for Mary and Samantha at the bus station, but they arrived at the station before noon and left on the bus before I arrived.
  • Mary and Samantha arrived at the bus station before noon, and they left on the bus before I arrived.
  • Mary and Samantha left on the bus before I arrived, so I did not see them at the bus station.
Dependent ClauseNoun Clauses
A noun clause performs the same functions of a noun. It can be the subject of a verb, object of a verb, subject complement, object of a preposition, adjective complement:

Examples Of Noun Clauses

  • What Billy did shocked his friends. (As subject of a verb)
  • Billy’s friends didn’t know that he couldn’t swim. (As object of a verb)
  • Billy’s mistake was that he refused to take lessons.(As subject complement)
  • Mary is not responsible for what Billy did.(As object of preposition)
  • Everybody is sad that Billy drowned. (As adjective complement)
Adverb Clauses
An adverb clause serves the same function as that of an adverb. It explains about or modifies the main verb of the sentence giving inputs on when, where, why, under what conditions. Different types of adverb clauses are given below:Adverb Clauses Of Time
It gives information on the time of action. Usually, it is indicated by the subordinating conjunctions like when, as soon as, while, before, until, after, since, till, as long as, etc.

  • Do not get off the train until it stops.
  • I will go abroad after I finish my studies.
  • I always switch the lights off before I step out of the room.
Adverb Clauses Of Place
It gives information on the place of action. Usually, it is indicated by the subordinating conjunctions like where, wherever etc.
  • Put the keys where you can find them easily.
  • This is the house where my family lives.
Adverb Clauses Of Purpose
It gives information about the purpose of action. It is usually indicated by subordinating conjunctions like that, lest, so that, in order that etc.
  • We eat so that we may live.
  • He ran fast lest he should miss the train.
Adverb Clauses Of Cause Or Reason
It talks about the reason for the action and is usually introduced by subordinating conjunctions like as, since, because, that etc.
  • I like John because he is sincere.
  • As he was not feeling well, he left early.
  • I am sorry that I missed the concert.
Adjective Clauses
Adjective pronoun usually contains subject, verb and a relative pronoun. It modifies a noun and can be used to combine two sentences to form one sentence. Adjective clauses usually begin with relative pronouns like who, which, that or whom or relative adverbs like when or where.Examples For Adjective pronouns

  • The student who answered the question was John.
  • Miss Wong, whom you met at our house, is going to marry Mr. Chan.
  • I remember the day when we visited Paris.
Omitting The Relative Pronoun Or Adverb From The Adjective Clause
It should be noted that the relative pronoun or adverb introducing an adjective clause can be omitted sometimes. Look at the examples given below.
  • I could not answer the question which you asked – I could not answer the question you asked.
  • I have read all the books which you gave me – I have read all the books you gave me.
  • The plan which I proposed was accepted by all – The plan I proposed was accepted by all
  • That is the reason why he does not want to come here – That is the reason he does not want to come here
So, these were the basic types of clauses and there usages. Hope this article helped you tackle the confusions associated with the different types of clauses and help you identify and use them correctly in sentences.


Types of Phrases


A phrase is a group of related words (within a sentence) without both subject and verb. For example, He is laughing at the joker.

A phrase functions as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective or preposition in a sentence. The function of a phrase depends on its construction (words it contains). On the basis of their functions and constructions, phrases are divided into various types i.e. noun phrase, verb phrase, adverb phrase, adjective phrase, appositive phrase, infinite phrase, participle phrase and gerund phrase.

Noun Phrase

      A noun phrase consists of a noun and other related words (usually modifiers and determiners) which modify the noun. It functions like a noun in a sentence.

A noun phrase consists of a noun as the head word and other words (usually modifiers and determiners) which come after or before the noun. The whole phrase works as a noun in a sentence.
Noun Phrase = noun + modifiers        (the modifiers can be after or before noun)

            He is wearing a nice red shirt.                      (as noun/object)
            She brought a glass full of water.                (as noun/object)
            The boy with brown hair is laughing.           (as noun/subject)
            A man on the roof was shouting.                  (as noun/subject)

A sentence can also contain more noun phrases.
For example. The girl with blue eyes bought a beautiful chair.

Prepositional phrase.

      A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition, object of preposition(noun or pronoun) and may also consist of other modifiers.
e.g. on a table, near a wall, in the room, at the door, under a tree

A prepositional phrase starts with a preposition and mostly ends with a noun or pronoun. Whatever prepositional phrase ends with is called object of preposition. A prepositional phrase functions as an adjective or adverb in a sentence.

A boy on the roof is singing a song.              (As adjective)
The man in the room is our teacher.             (As adjective)
She is shouting in a loud voice.                    (As adverb)
He always behaves in a good manner.        (As adverb)

Adjective Phrase.

   An adjective phrase is a group of words that functions like an adjective in a sentence. It consists of adjectives, modifier and any word that modifies a noun or pronoun.
An adjective phrase functions like an adjective to modify (or tell about) a noun or a pronoun in a sentence.

He is wearing a nice red shirt.                     (modifies shirt)
The girl with brown hair is singing a song.  (modifies girl)
He gave me a glass full of water.                (modifies glass)
A boy from America won the race.               (modifies boy)

Prepositional phrases and participle phrases also function as adjectives so we can also call them adjective phrases when they function as adjective. In the above sentence “The girl with brown hair is singing a song”, the phrase “with brown hair” is a prepositional phrase but it functions as an adjective.

Adverb Phrase

An adverb phrase is a group of words that functions as an adverb in a sentence. It consists of adverbs or other words (preposition, noun, verb, modifiers) that make a group with works like an adverb in a sentence.
An adverb phrase functions like an adverb to modify a verb, an adjective or another adverb.

He always behaves in a good manner.         (modifies verb behave)
They were shouting in a loud voice.             (modifies verb shout)
            She always drives with care.                        (modifies verb drive)
            He sat in a corner of the room.                    (modifies verb sit)
            He returned in a short while.                        (modifies verb return)

A prepositional phrase can also act as an adverb phrase. For example in above sentence “He always behaves in a good manner”, the phrase “in a good manner” is a prepositional phrase but it acts as adverb phrase here.

Verb Phrase

     A verb phrase is a combination of main verb and its auxiliaries (helping verbs) in a sentence.

He is eating an apple.
She has finished her work.
You should study for the exam.
She has been sleeping for two hours.

According to generative grammar, a verb phrase can consist of main verb, its auxiliaries, its complements and other modifiers. Hence it can refer to the whole predicate of a sentence.
Example. You should study for the exam.

Infinitive Phrase

An infinitive phrase consist of an infinitive(to + simple form of verb) and modifiers or other words associated to the infinitive. An infinitive phrase always functions as an adjective, adverb or a noun in a sentence.

            He likes to read books.                             (As noun/object)
            To earn money is a desire of everyone.    (As noun/subject)
He shouted to inform people about fire.  (As adverb, modifies verb shout)
He made a plan to buy a car.                    (As adjective, modifies noun plan)

Gerund Phrase

A gerund phrase consists of a gerund(verb + ing) and modifiers or other words associated with the gerund. A gerund phrase acts as a noun in a sentence.

I like writing good essays.                                 (As noun/object)
She started thinking about the problem.           (As noun/object)
              Sleeping late in night is not a good habit.         (As noun/subject)
              Weeping of a baby woke him up.                       (As noun/subject)

Participle Phrase

            A participle phrase consists of a present participle (verb + ing), a past participle (verb ending in -ed or other form in case of irregular verbs) and modifiers or other associate words. A participle phrase is separated by commas. It always acts as an adjective in a sentence.

The kids, making a noise, need food.                      (modifies kids)
I received a letter, mentioning about my exam.     (modifies letter)
The table, made of steel, is too expensive.             (modifies table)
We saw a car, damaged in an accident.                  (modifies car)

Absolute Phrase

Absolute phrase (also called nominative phrase) is a group of words including a noun or pronoun and a participle as well as any associated modifiers. Absolute phrase modifies (give information about) the entire sentence. It resembles a clause but it lack a true finite verb. It is separated by a comma or pairs of commas from the rest sentence.

He looks sad, his face expressing worry.
She was waiting for her friend, her eyes on the clock.
             John is painting a wall, his shirt dirty with paint.

Related Topics:

Types of Phrase
Types of Clauses
Types of Subordinate Clause
Difference between Phrase and Clause