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Phrases and Clauses

Conjunctions join phrases and clauses.

Phrases and ClausesWhat is the difference between a phrase and a clause?

Phrases – A phrase is a part of a sentence but could never be a full sentence because it does not have both a subject and a verb.  A phrase can be a group of words that act as a noun, adverb or adjective;

for example,

  • ‘the big cat’ (noun phrase)
  • ‘with the strength of ten men’ (a prepositional phrase that acts as an adjective)
  • ‘for several days’ (acting as an adverb)

Clauses – A clause is a group of words that can be a sentence but is not always a sentence.  Clauses have both a subject (A noun or pronoun ) and a verb (a phrase containing a verb is the predicate)

Examples of phrases and clauses

  • ‘The moon shines brightly’ – This is an independent clause because it has a subject (the moon), a verb (shone), and it stands on its own as a sentence.  The adverb (brightly) is an intensifier, it increases the shine of the moon.
  • ‘The best university in Texas’ – This is a phrase because it has a subject but no verb.  The adjective (best) is a superlative, which means that it is the highest level of the noun (university).

Dependent and independent clauses

A dependent clause has both a subject and a verb, however, adding subordinating conjunction to a clause makes it a phrase and no longer a clause.

For example, ‘I ate the cake’ is a clause. ‘Because I ate the cake’ is a phrase and no longer stands on its own as a sentence because we need to know what else is going on for the sentence to make sense. Other examples of subordinating conjunctions are ‘although, and while.

Relative clauses

A relative clause is a dependent clause that starts with a relative pronoun.  Examples of relative pronouns are,

  • Who
  • That
  • Which
  • Whose
  • Where

Relative pronouns, like all pronouns, stand-in for another part of the sentence (for example a noun, or a noun phrase).  An example is, ‘We need to find a store that sells watermelon.’  The relative pronoun ‘that’ stands in for the noun ‘store’.  The first part of the sentence is an independent clause ‘We need to find a store.’  The second part of the sentence ‘that sells watermelon.’ It is a relative clause that relies on the independent clause to make sense.

Test your knowledge of Clauses and Phrases with this quiz

These books and tools provide both study and reference material for English Grammar

Understanding and Using English Grammar by Betty Azar understandingEnglishGrammar
Grammarly. Correct your grammar as you type. Grammarly logo
English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy English Grammar in Use
The Bluebook of Grammar and punctuation – An easy to use guide with clear rules, real-world examples, and reproducible quizzes. thebluebookofgrammar

 

Aaron Skudder

11 Comments

  1. Thank you for your post. It is useful for me. I started online business for a while and the major part of my task is blogging. I need to write article daily. Since English is my 2nd language, sometimes it is hard to express myself.

    Here comes your article, which give clear description on phrases and clauses. I particular like your description on relative clauses. The relative clauses are used frequently in our writing. There are a lot of populous ones, who, that, which, whose and where etc. I often confuse how to use them. With your article, I am now having a clear picture of these words.

    It is kind of you sharing this useful knowledge with us.

  2. Thank you once again Aaron for yet another explicit explanation. I have often mixed up phrases and clauses because to me they are so similar that sometimes i cant tell the difference. Now i know clearly to always look out for the subject and the verb as these are the key seperators to easily distinguish between phrases and clauses.

    Further more learning the role and power of surbodinating conjuctions today clearly makes all the difference.

    Would it be Proper for me to say a phrase does not make a complete sense, while a clause makes a complete sense on its own ?

    The thin lines in english grammer seems to be much, is there a practical way of getting it right without having to memorise all the rules?

    Looking forward to your guidance and your next article.

    Thank you so much.

    Regards

    • A phrase like ‘a blue coat’ makes sense because it describes something, however it is not a sentence.

  3. Hey, I enjoy a lot while learning about phrase and clauses. After test my result is not awesome . I will read it again and hope get good result. While reading I know that a phrase is a part of a sentence but could never be a full sentence because it does not have both a subject and a verb.  A phrase can be a group of words that act as a noun, adverb or adjective

  4. Hello, Now I am learning English from your website and feeling very happy. Really it is very easy. Your way of writing helped me a lot. Now I know that a dependent clause has both a subject and a verb, however, adding subordinating conjunction to a clause makes it a phrase and no longer a clause. I will also share you website to some of my friends. I hope they will also improve their English.

    • Independent clauses also have a subject and a verb, a predicate to more precise.  The difference is the subordinating conjunction, words like ‘that, where, although, because’.  Some conjunctive words are also transition words.

  5. Thank you for your post. It is useful for me. I started online business for a while and the major part of my task is blogging. I need to write article daily. My native language is not English. Your website is helping me to know everything to writing better blog in English. I read many pages today. Hope soon I will learn all things. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hey, My English is improving now by spending time daily on learning. Hope soon it will become awesome. I want to become a good writer. It only can be possible with positive mindset. Today I learn about Phrases and Clause. I particular like your description on relative clauses. The relative clauses are used frequently in our writing.

  7. Your guide is very simple and easy for everyone. Now I know that A phrase is a part of a sentence but could never be a full sentence because it does not have both a subject and a verb.  A phrase can be a group of words that act as a noun, adverb or adjective. Keep this grate work for everyone like me.

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