What is a Clause? All sentences in the English language consist of subject and predicate. When a sentence acts as a part of a large sentence, we call it a clause. A clause is the basic structural unit of a sentence. Like a simple sentence, it has its own subject and predicate, but it often appears as part of a large sentence like a complex and compound sentence. for example
Complex Sentence: I know that the boy is innocent.
Compound Sentence: The man is rich, but he is not vain.
This article explains the types of clauses and their usage and avoids common mistakes while utilizing clauses to make your writing stronger.
Definition of a Clause
A group of words that consist of a subject and a predicate (finite verb) of its own and form a part of a sentence is called a clause. The predicate in clauses contains a verb, a verb phrase, or a verb and its object.
A subject is a person or thing that does something, and the predicate part tells us what the subject does.
Examples of Clauses
- Students who do their homework on time are intelligent.
- They cannot leave the place while it is raining.
- I think that she has made several mistakes.
- The man who robbed the woman has been arrested.
- After she came, I left.
- I know who got the highest marks.
Types of Clauses and their Functions
What are the different types of clauses? When should you use which type of clauses? It is important to understand that not only a single word function as a part of speech but in many cases, you’ll see a group of words such as phrases and clauses also act as a single part of speech in a sentence.
Since clauses have the same structure as a sentence, they act as a part of a large sentence. On this basis, clauses are divided into two types the main and subordinate clauses. This classification of clauses is based on grammatical completeness.
Main or Independent Clause
Clauses that can stand alone if removed from their sentences are called independent clauses. The two names main or principal clauses are also used for independent clauses. An independent clause can also be called a complete sentence.
The house seems empty when the mother isn’t here.
(In this sentence, the underlined group of words contains its own subject, ‘the house’ and the verb ‘seems .’This group of words can stand alone; therefore, it is an independent or main clause.)
Examples of Independent Clauses
The following are examples of independent/principal clauses. The subject and predicate in each independent clause may consist of one or more than one words.
- The older man fell down the stairs.
(Subject=the older man, Predicate= fell down the stairs)
- Aslam read an exciting storybook.
(Subject=Aslam, Predicate= read an exciting storybook)
- It rained heavily while I was working in the garden.
(Subject=It, Verb: rained)
The subject or object of independent clauses can be subordinate clauses.
Dependent or Subordinate Clauses
A word group consisting of a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone is called a subordinate clause. The subordinate clauses cannot make sense by itself. So, it is dependent on independent clauses to be completed.
Examples of Subordinate Clause
wherever you like
(The group of words “wherever you like” has its own subject ‘you’ and the verb ‘like’ but cannot make complete sense; therefore, it is a subordinate clause)
We can add a main or principal clause to complete its meaning.
You can go wherever you like.
Now, this is a complete sentence with one main and one subordinate clause.
Dependent clauses always begin with words like when, where, if, whether, because, before, after, while, whenever, wherever, however, etc.
The main function of subordinate clauses is in making complex sentences. For example
When I get there, I will ask him.
When I reach there=main clause
I’ll ask him=subordinate clause
We slept (main clause) when evening came. (subordinate clause)
Types of Subordinate Clauses
Subordinate clauses are further divided into three types based on the function they do in a sentence are noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverb clauses.
1- Noun Clauses
A clause consists of a group of words, and does the function of a noun in a sentence is known as a noun clause. There are various functions of a noun clause in a sentence. It can go in the subject or object position in a sentence. Remember that a noun clause is always a subordinate clause that makes a part of a large sentence that contains one or more independent clauses.
In the following examples, each underlined part is a noun clause.
- That he will arrive soon is expected. (Noun clause as subject)
- You can live with whom you like. (Noun clause as object)
- Those children at what the older man says. (As the object of a preposition)
- This is what I want to be. (Noun clause as a subject complement)
- I haven’t found him what I had expected. (Noun clause as object complement)
- The news that his brother has died is false. (It is in apposition to a noun)
2- Adjective Clauses
The second type of subordinate clauses is the adjective clause. Adjective clauses contains a group of two or more words that describes or give information about a noun. It belongs to subordinate clauses means it always needs main clauses to complete its meaning.
They often begin with relative pronouns such as who, whom, and which.
I know a man who is friendly to everybody.
(The subordinate clause ‘who is friendly to everybody.’ Describe the noun man)
In the following examples, each noun written in bold is modified by the adjective clause, which is underlined.
- My friend who lives in London is a doctor.
- The boy who sat on the wall is blind.
- The woman whom we met has seven children.
- The small village where we were born has been ruined by the flood.
- The movie that I heard about is interesting.
- The railway track which goes through the town is dangerous.
3- Adverb Clauses
A group of words that play the role of adverbs and qualify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs is called adverb clauses. Adverb clauses usually begin with subordinating conjunction such as after, before, as if, as long as, although, as, even if, if, since, etc.
Read the following two sentences.
- I often leave the office at sunset.
- I often leave the office when evening came.
Both sentences answer the question when. In the first, the group of words at sunset doesn’t have its own subject and verb; therefore, it is an adverb phrase.
In the second sentence, the words group ‘when evening came’ contains the subject ‘evening’ and the verb ‘came .’This group of words also does the work of an adverb and has its own subject and verb; therefore, it is an adverb clause.
Examples of Adverb Clauses
- She plays piano because she likes it.
(It answers the question why)
- He watches movies wherever he goes.
(‘wherever he goes’ is an adverb clause that answers the question where)
- Check the phone before you sleep.
- He is happy though he is poor.
- As the child was walking, he ran into his mother.
- I found her ring where she dropped it.
- When her dad arrived, he brought some eggs.
- I will go where I find work.
- I shall give them money when they return my bike.
- We left home after they came.