A clause is a sentence within a sentence.
What is a clause?
A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a finite verb.
- Owls are nocturnal birds.
The above group of words has a subject (Owls) and a finite verb (are). So, it is a clause.
A clause can be a complete sentence, or a part of a sentence. For example, the following two clauses are two complete sentences:
- Owls cannot see during the day.
- Their eyes cannot bear sunlight.
A sentence which has only one clause is called a simple sentence. The above two clauses are two simple sentences.
But a sentence can have two or more clauses. When two clauses make a sentence, they are joined by a 'conjunction'. Look at the following sentence.
- Owls cannot see during the day because their eyes cannot bear sunlight.
The above sentence has two clauses which are joined by the conjunction 'because'. Here, the clauses are parts of a sentence.
What is a clause?
"A clause is a group of words that contains a finite verb." -Nesfield
"A clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb, and forms a sentence or part of a sentence." -Oxford Dictionary
"A clause is a part of a sentence which contains a subject and a verb, usually joined to the rest of the sentence by a conjunction." -Michael Swan
"A clause is a group of words that has both a subject and a predicate. It must have a verb that show tense. A clause can convey meaning on its own like a proper sentence, or it may be a part of a sentence." -Cambridge Grammar Gear
Types of Clauses
In English grammar, there are two main types of clauses:
- independent clauses and
- dependent clauses.
Dependent clauses are further classified into three types:
- Noun Clause
- Adjective clause and
- Adverb clause
1. Independent Clause
An independent clause, also known as a main clause, is a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate and expresses a complete thought. It can stand alone as a complete sentence. For example: "The sun was shining brightly."
Here are some more examples of independent clauses. Note that each of these clauses can stand alone as a complete sentence because they express a complete thought with a subject and a verb. Independent clauses are grammatically complete and do not depend on other clauses to convey their meaning.
- She walked to the park.
- The sun is shining brightly.
- He played the guitar.
- I am going on vacation.
- They won the championship.
- The cat jumped off the table.
- We watched a movie last night.
- He opened the door and walked inside.
- She laughed at the joke.
- The flowers bloomed in the garden.
2. Dependent Clause
A dependent clause, also known as a subordinate clause, is a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate but does not express a complete thought. It relies on an independent clause to form a complete sentence. For example: "Although the sun was shining brightly" is a dependent clause. It is not a sentence because it cannot express a complete thought.
Dependent clauses often begin with subordinating conjunctions such as "because," "although," "if," "when," or "since."
Here are some examples of dependent clauses. Note that these examples show dependent clauses that cannot stand alone as complete sentences because they do not express a complete thought. They rely on independent clauses to form complete sentences and provide additional information or conditions.
- Because I was tired
- After the rain stopped
- If you study hard
- When he arrives
- Although she tried her best
- Since I have no money
- While they were sleeping
- Unless you call me
- Wherever you go
- As long as it takes
Types of Depended Clauses
Dependent clauses can be further classified into three types based on their functions:
- Noun Clauses
- Adjective Clauses
- Adverbial Clauses
The following section deals with these three types of dependent clauses. Understanding these different types of clauses is essential for constructing clear and grammatically correct sentences in English.
(i) Noun Clause
A noun is a word that names a person, place, thing or idea. Nouns function as subjects, objects or predicate nominatives. Sometimes a clause can function as the subject, object or predicate nominative. It is called noun clause. Read the following two sentences:
- I know her name.
- I know what her name is.
In the first sentence, 'her name' is a noun that functions as the object of the verb "know". In the second sentence, 'what her name is' is a clause and it is the object of the same verb "know" So, 'what her name is' is a noun clause.
So, what is a noun clause?
A noun clause is a subordinate clause that does the functions of a noun. That is, a noun clause functions as subject, object, or complement in the sentence.
Noun Clause Conjunctions
Noun clauses generally begin with what, when, where, why, how, and that, although other variations are also possible.
Noun Clause as Subject of Verb
A noun clause can act as the subject of the verb. As a subject, noun clauses occur at the beginning of a sentence.
- That he is very intelligent is known to me.
- What you say is true.
- How Hamlet died was a mystery.
Noun Clause as Object of Verb
A noun clause can act as the object of the verb. As object, noun clauses occur after the transitive finite verb of the principal clause.
- I know where he lives.
- He asked me why I was late.
- You cannot guess what type of person he is.
Noun Clause as Object of Preposition
A noun clause can act as the object of a preposition. As object, noun clauses occur after the preposition.
- I don’t believe in what you say.
- Everything depends on how they react.
- I know nothing except what you told me.
Noun Clause as Subjective Complement
A noun clause as a subjective complement occurs after "be" verb.
- The question is how he will respond.
- This is what he said.
- Smartness is what a smart does.
(ii) Adjective Clause
An adjective is a word that modifies a noun or pronoun. Sometimes clauses can modify nouns or pronouns. We call them adjective clauses. Read the following two sentences:
- The clever boy got a scholarship.
- The boy who was clever got a scholarship.
In the first sentence, 'clever' is an adjective which is modifying the noun 'boy'. In the second sentence, 'who was clever' is a clause and it is modifying the same noun 'boy'. So, 'who was clever' is an adjective clause.
So, what is an adjective clause?
An adjective clause is a subordinate clause that modifies a noun or pronoun of the main clause.
An adjective clause begins with relative pronouns. So, the relative pronouns are also called adjective clause pronouns. The adjective clause pronouns are: who, whom, whose, which & that.
Easy Examples of Adjective Clauses
Adjective clauses most often replace an adjective. Here are some examples for your better understanding. The explanations are in the brackets.
Blind people have a strong mind. (Blind=Adjective)
People who are blind have a strong mind. (who are blind=Adjective clause)
His father is a rich man. (rich=adjective)
His father is a man who is rich. (who is rich=adjective clause)
Ripe mangoes taste sweet. (Ripe=adjective)
Mangoes which are ripe taste sweet. (which are ripe=adjective clause)
Types of Adjective Clauses
Adjective clauses are classified based on the relative pronouns they begin with. There are mainly five types of adjective clauses in English.
1. Adjective Clause with Relative Pronoun as Subject
Relative pronouns can be the subject of an adjective clause.
- This is the man who called you yesterday.
- The baby which came here is my brother.
- He tells a tale that sounds untrue.
2. Adjective Clause with Relative Pronoun as Object of Verb
Relative pronouns can be the object of an adjective clause.
- The book which I bought is lost.
- The migratory bird that he shot down was beautiful.
- The girl whom you met in the hospital is my cousin.
3. Adjective Clause with Relative Pronoun as Object of Preposition
Relative pronouns can be the object of preposition of an adjective clause.
- The house in which he lives is beautiful.
- Where is the man about whom you were talking?
4. Adjective Clause with Relative Pronoun as Possessive
Relative pronouns can be in the possessive forms.
- The boy whose father is a doctor is brilliant.
5. Adjective Clause with When, Where & Why
Sometimes 'when', 'where', 'why', and 'how' can be used as relative pronouns. Then they form adjective clauses.
- I remember the place where I was born.
- I knew the reason why he was angry.
- Sunday is the time when the week begins.
(iii) Adverb Clause
An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, an adject, or an adverb. It answers the questions 'when', 'where', 'why', and 'how'. Sometimes a clause can modify a verb, adjective, or adverb. We call it adverbial clause. Look at the following two sentences carefully:
- The train comes timely.
- The train comes when it is time.
In the first sentence, the word 'timely' is an adverb modifying the verb 'comes'. It answers the question 'when?'. In the second sentence, the group of words 'when it is time' is a sub-ordinate clause that modifies the verb 'comes' and answers the question 'when'. So, it is an adverbial clause.
What is an adverbial clause?
An adverb clause is a dependent clause that functions like an adverb.
- An adverbial clause answers the questions 'when?', 'where?', 'why?', and 'how?'.
Adverb clause conjunctions:
Adverbial clauses begin with the following sub-ordinate conjunctions: when, while, till, until, where, as, since, because, if, unless, so that, etc.
- Wait where you are.
- He is poor because he is lazy.
- Don't come in until I call you.
- If you work well, you will earn well.
Types of Adverbial Clauses
There are mainly nine types of adverbial clauses. They are:
- Adverbial Clause of Time
- Adverbial Clause of Place
- Adverbial Clause of Concession
- Adverbial Clause of Condition
- Adverbial Clause of Comparison
- Adverbial Clause of Degree
- Adverbial Clause of Reason
- Adverbial Clause of Result
- Adverbial Clause of Purpose
1. Adverbial Clause of Time
An adverbial clause of time is a sub-ordinate clause that shows time. It shows when the action of the main clause happens. An adverbial clause of time answers the question 'when'. Adverbial clauses of time begin with the conjunctions 'when', 'while', 'after', 'before', 'till', 'until', 'as', 'as soon as'.
- Strike while the iron is hot.
- They were asked to wait till the signal was given.
- Wait until I return.
2. Adverbial Clause of Place
An adverbial clause of place is a sub-ordinate clause that shows place. It shows where the action of the main clause happens. An adverbial clause of place answers the question 'where'. Adverbial clauses of place begin with the conjunctions 'where' and 'wherever'.
- I shall go where he lives.
- You may go wherever you like.
3. Adverbial Clause of Concession
Adverbial clauses of concession begin with the sub-ordinate conjunctions 'though', 'although' and 'even though'. Here two clauses express two contrasted ideas.
- Though he is poor, he is happy.
- He did not come although I invited him.
4. Adverbial Clause of Condition
An adverbial clause of condition begins with the sub-ordinate conjunctions 'if' or 'unless'. The if-clause expresses condition and the main clause expresses the result of the condition.
- If you read, you will learn.
- If winter comes, can spring be far behind?
- You cannot get chance in a good university if you do not study hard.
5. Adverbial Clause of Comparison
An adverbial clause of comparison begins with 'than' and it modifies the comparative adjective or adverb in the main clause. Read the following examples.
- The prices were a great deal higher than I had anticipated.
- You are wiser than your brother is.
6. Adverbial Clause of Degree
An adverbial clause of degree begins with 'as' and it modifies the adjective or adverb in the main clause. Read the following examples.
- He is as tall as his father is.
- She ate as much as she could.
- A dog cannot run so fast as a deer can.
7. Adverbial Clause of Reason
Adverbial clause of reason begins with 'as', 'since', or 'because'. It answers the question 'why?'.
- He often visits Spain because he likes the climate.
- As he was ill, he did not go to school.
- As I trust myself, I don't need to write a number on it.
8. Adverbial Clause of Result
An adverbial clause of result begins with 'that' and it modifies the adjective or adverb in the main clause. Read the following examples.
- He is so weak that he cannot walk.
- The poles are so cold that none can live there.
- She is so wise that nobody can cheat her.
9. Adverbial Clause of Purpose
An adverbial clause of purpose begins with 'that', 'so that', or 'in order that'.
- We read that we may learn.
- We read so that we may learn.
- We read in order that we may learn.
3. Coordinate Clause
Every clause of a compound sentence is a coordinate clause. It is an independent clause that can stand alone as a separate sentence. It expresses a complete thought and does not rely on any other clause to make sense. Coordinate clauses are usually connected by coordinating conjunctions such as "and," "but," "or," "nor," "so," or "yet."
Here are some examples of coordinate clauses. Coordinate clauses are used to express related ideas and show the relationship between them. They allow writers to combine independent thoughts into a single sentence.
- She loves to read, but he prefers watching movies.
- You can either join us for dinner, or you can go to the party.
- He studied hard for the exam, so he got a high score.
These are the main types of clauses in English grammar. Understanding their differences and usage can help in constructing clear and meaningful sentences.
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