What is a clause?

A clause is a part of a sentence. There are two main types: independent (main clauses), dependent (subordinate clauses).
Independent Clauses

An independent clause is a complete sentence; it contains a subject and verb and expresses a complete thought in both context and meaning.

For example: The door opened.

Independent clauses can be joined by a coordinating conjunction to form complex or compound sentences.Co-ordinating Conjunctions
but    for

or    nor

For example: Take two independent clauses and join them together with the conjunction and: ” The door opened.” “The man walked in.” = The door opened and the man walked in.

Dependent Clauses

A dependent (subordinate) clause is part of a sentence; it contains a subject and verb but does not express a complete thought. They can make sense on their own, but, they are dependent on the rest of the sentence for context and meaning. They are usually joined to an independent clause to form a complex sentence.

Dependent clauses often begin with a a subordinating conjunction or relative pronoun (see below) that makes the clause unable to stand alone. Subordinating Conjunctions
after    although     as     because
before     even if     even though     if
in order that
provided that
rather than

so that


though    unless


while    why
Relative Pronouns
which    whichever

who    whoever
whose    whosever    whomever

For example:

The door opened because the man pushed it.

Dependent clauses can be nominal, adverbial or adjectival.

A nominal clause (noun clause) functions like a noun or noun phrase. It is a group of words containing a subject and a finite verb of its own and contains one of the following: that | if | whether

For example:
I wondered whether the homework was necessary.

Noun clauses answer questions like “who(m)?” or “what?”

An adverbial clause (adverb clause) is a word or expression in the sentence that functions as an adverb; that is, it tells you something about how the action in the verb was done. An adverbial clause is separated from the other clauses by any of the following subordinating conjunctions: after | although | as | because | before | if | since | that | though | till | unless | until | when | where | while

For example:
They will visit you before they go to the airport.

Adverbial clauses can also be placed before the main clause without changing the meaning.

For example:
Before they go to the airport, they will visit you.

!Note – When an adverb clause introduces the sentence (as this one does), it is set off with a comma.

Adverb clauses answer questions like “when?”, “where?”, “why?”

An adjectival clause (adjective clause or relative clause) does the work of an adjective and describes a noun, it’s usually introduced by a relative pronoun: who | whom | whose | that | which

For example:
I went to the show that was very popular.

This kind of clause is used to provide extra information about the noun it follows. This can be to define something (a defining clause), or provide unnecessary, but interesting, added information (a non-defining clause).

For example:
The car that is parked in front of the gates will be towed away. (Defining relative clause.)

Information contained in the defining relative clause is absolutely essential in order for us to be able to identify the car in question.
My dog, who is grey and white, chased the postman. ( Non-defining relative clause)

A non-defining relative clause is separated from the rest of the sentence by commas. If you take away the non-defining clause the basic meaning of the sentence remains intact.

For example:
My dog chased the postman.

Adjective clauses answer questions like “which?” or “what kind of?”

An adjective clause functions as an adjective (modifies a noun or pronoun); an adverb clause functions as an adverb (describes a verb, adjective or other adverb); a noun clause is used as a noun (subject of a verb, direct object, indirect object, predicate nominative or object of the preposition).

!Note – The difference between a clause and a phrase is that a phrase does not contain a finite verb.


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