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What are Clauses

What are Clauses?

Definition: A clause is a group of words that consists of a verb and a subject. The verb indicates an action or a state of being, while the subject is someone or something performing the action.

Often, a clause can form a complete sentence on its own because it conveys a complete thought. A clause that can stand alone as a sentence is known as main (or independent) clause. In some cases, however, a clause might depend on another clause to make sense. We will look into these types in detail below.

Here are a few examples:

  • I was standing near a wall.

  • She made tea for the guest.

  • They are singing in a loud voice.

Note: A clause is different from a phrase because a phrase does not have a subject and verb.

Types Of Clauses:

Types of Clauses

1. Main or Independent Clause:

This is a clause that makes sense as a separate sentence because it expresses a complete thought. As the name suggests, it is independent, and does not depend on another clause. Every sentence contains at least one main clause. A main clause may form part of a compound or a complex sentence.

Quick Tip: Compound sentences are made up of two or more main clauses linked by a conjunction such as "and", "but" or "so". Whereas, complex sentences have one main clause and one or more dependent clauses.

The following are some examples of simple sentences with only one (main) clause:

  • I love chocolate.

  • John ran quickly.

  • She hates snow.

  • He eats pasta everyday.

2. Subordinate or Dependent Clause:

A subordinate clause does not make sense on its own. It depends on the main clause to form a sentence. In other words, it does not express a complete thought. Like all clauses, a subordinate clause has a subject and a verb.

A subordinate clause begins with a subordinate conjunction or a relative pronoun.

Some of the commonly used subordinate conjunctions are "although", "because", "until" and "while".

Relative pronouns are words such as "who", "whoever", "which", "whichever", "whatever", "whose" and "that".

The following are some examples of subordinate clauses:

  • While Bob was sleeping, his friends watched a movie.

  • He did not take a break until he finished his work.

  • He was upset because he was late.

  • Her sister played while she was cooking.

  • Although I like juice, I will have tea.

A subordinate clause can function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.

2.1 Noun clause:

As the name suggests, a noun clause acts as a noun in a sentence. Because they act as nouns, Noun clauses can be used as a subject, direct object, an indirect object or an object of a preposition. Like all clauses, a noun clause has a subject and a verb. Because they are dependent clauses, they do not form a complete sentence.

The following are a few examples:

  • Does she know where you are living?

  • Wherever we are going will be fine.

  • Whatever you are making will be tasty.

    (In this example, the dependent clause Whatever you are making is acting as the subject in the sentence. It is a noun clause.)

2.2 Adjective clause:

An adjective clause, also known as relative clause, is a dependent clause that modifies a noun or a pronoun, just like an adjective. It is important to keep in mind that adjective clauses do not usually change the meaning of a sentence; they just add clarity to (or provide additional detail about) the noun or pronoun they modify.

An adjective clause usually starts with a relative pronoun, and it usually follows the noun it modifies.

what are restrictive and non-restrictive clauses?

Restrictive clauses: When the additional detail provided by the relative clause is required for distinguishing (or defining) the noun it modifies, the clause is called restrictive clause. You cannot exclude, or drop, a restrictive clause from the sentence. A restrictive clause is introduced by relative pronouns “who”, “whom” and “that”. The relative pronoun “that” is used for introducing a restrictive clause when the noun it modifies is not a person. A restrictive clause should not be separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Here are a few examples of restrictive clauses:

  • The food that I like is pizza.

  • The person whom you met is my uncle.

  • This is the cake that Lily made.

    (In this example, the dependent clause that Lily made describes the cake. It is an adjective clause.)

Non-restrictive clauses: On the other hand, when the additional detail provided by the relative clause is not required for distinguishing (or defining) the noun being modified, the clause is called non-restrictive clause. A non-restrictive clause can be dropped without changing the meaning of the sentence. A non-restrictive clause is introduced by relative pronouns “who”, “whom” and “which”. The relative pronoun “which” is used for introducing a non-restrictive clause when the noun it modifies is not a person. A non-restrictive clause should be separated from the rest of the sentence using a pair of commas (',').

It can be a bit tricky to decide which relative pronoun to use with restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. The following figure should help you in making that decision.

Relative pronouns to be used for restrictive and nonrestrictive relative clauses

2.3 Adverb clause:

An adverb clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adverb. They describe a verb, an adjective or an adverb. Like all clauses, an adverb clause contains a subject and a verb.

An adverbial clause usually starts with a subordinating conjunction such as although, because, if, until and when. They tell the reader when, where, how, why, to what extent or under what conditions did something happen.

Commas with adverb clauses: When an adverb clause is at the beginning of the sentence, it needs a comma separating it from the independent clause.

The following are a few examples:

  • Before I go to school, I check my homework.

  • When we went to the museum, we saw an aeroplane.

  • We will wait until Molly finishes her breakfast.

    (In this example, the dependent clause until Molly finishes her breakfast modifies the verb "wait". It is an adverb clause.)

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See Also:

English Grammar:

Physics:

Biology:

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