What Are Clauses? (with Examples)

What Are Clauses? (with Examples)

A clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb.

A clause can be distinguished from a phrase, which does not contain a subject and a verb (e.g., in the afternoon, drinking from the bowl).

An independent clause can express a complete thought (and can be a standalone sentence). A dependent clause is usually a supporting part of a sentence, and it cannot stand by itself as a meaningful proposition (idea).

Examples of Independent Clauses

Here are some examples of independent clauses (shaded):

  • Tara ate a cheese roll after she watched the news.
  • (Tara ate a cheese roll is an independent clause. It works as a standalone sentence.)

  • Even though his mother was a driving instructor, my cousin failed his driving test six times.

  • A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing. (Louis Hector Berlioz)

Examples of Dependent Clauses

Here are the same examples with the dependent clauses shaded:

  • Tara ate a cheese roll after she watched the news.
  • (The clause after she watched the news is a dependent clause. It does not work as a standalone sentence.)

  • Even though his mother was a driving instructor, my cousin failed his driving test six times.

  • A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.
These three dependent clauses (or subordinate clauses as they're also called) could have been independent clauses. However, the opening word(s) (in these examples after, Even though, and but) turned them into dependent clauses. The opening words are known as dependent words, the main type of which is subordinating conjunctions.

How Are Clauses Used in Sentences?

Clauses can play a variety of roles in sentences. A clause can act as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.

Noun Clauses

  • I cannot remember what I said last night.
  • (In this example, the clause acts like a noun.)
Compare the example above to this:

  • I cannot remember my speech.
  • (speech = noun)
Read more about noun clauses.

Adjective Clauses

  • My dog, who usually refuses to go near the water, dived in the canal to chase a water vole.
  • (In this example, the clause acts like an adjective.)
Compare the example above to this:

  • My water-shy dog dived in the canal to chase a water vole.
  • (water-shy = adjective)
Read more about adjective clauses.

If an adjective clause could be removed without wrecking the sentence (i.e., it just adds additional information), then it should be offset with commas. (You could equally use brackets or dashes.) A clause which can be safely removed is called a non-restrictive clause. A restrictive clause, on the other hand, is one which cannot be removed because it's essential to the sentence. Restrictive clauses are not offset with commas. For example:

  • The man who lives next door is getting ruder.
  • (This is an example of a restrictive clause. You cannot remove it. There are no commas.)
  • Councillor Simon Smith, who lives next door, is getting ruder.
  • (This is an example of a non-restrictive clause. You can remove it. It's just additional information. That's why there are commas around it.)
Read more about using commas with which and who.

Adverbial Clauses

  • He lost his double chin after he gave up beer.
  • (In this example, the clause acts like an adverb.)
Compare the example above to this:

  • He lost his double chin recently.
  • (recently = adverb)
Read more about adverbial clauses.



See also:

What are verbs?
What is a phrase?
What is an independent clause?
What is a dependent clause?
What are subordinating conjunctions?
What are nouns?
What are noun clauses?
What are adjectives?
What are adjective clauses?
What are adverbs?
What are adverbial clauses?
Using commas with which, that, and who
What are non-restrictive clauses?
What are restrictive clauses?
Glossary of grammatical terms
 
Your score:


Click on the example of