1.15 Clauses and Phrases

Clauses include both subjects and verbs that work together as a single unit. When they form stand-alone sentences, they’re called independent clauses. An independent clause can stand alone or can be used with other clauses and phrases. A dependent clause also includes both a subject and a verb, but it must combine with an independent clause to form a complete sentence.

Types of Dependent Clauses



Adverb clause

Serves as an adverb; tells when, how, why, where, under what condition, to what degree, how often, or how much

To avoid sunburn, she plastered her body with sunscreen.

Noun clause

Serves as a noun when attached to a verb

That she would win the raceseemed quite likely.

She thoughtthat she would win the race.

Adjective clause (also called a relative clause)

Begins with a relative pronoun (that, who, whom, whose,which) or a relative adverb (when, where, why); functions as an adjective; attaches to a noun; has both a subject and a verb; tells what kind, how many, or which one

The day that he lost his watchwas an unlucky day.*

The housewhere they lived is gone.

Appositive clause

Functions as an appositive by restating a noun or noun-related verb in clause form; begins with that; typical nouns involved include possibilities such as assumption, belief, conviction, idea, knowledge, and theory

The idea that Josie will someday be taller than meis crazy.

*In some instances, the relative pronoun or adverb can be implied (e.g., “The day he lost his watch was an unlucky day”).

Phrases are groups of words that work together as a single unit but do not have a subject or a verb. English includes five basic kinds of phrases.

Types of Phrases



Noun phrase

Multiple words serving as a noun

Darcy ate a ham sandwich.

Verb phrase

Used as the verb in sentences that are in the progressive and perfect tenses

The class should have started a half-hour earlier.

Prepositional phrase

Begins with a preposition (covered in more depth in Section 21.9 “Gerunds and Infinitives”)

Work will be easier after the holiday rush.

Adjective phrase

Functions as an adjective; might include prepositional phrases and/or nouns

My brother is very tall and handsome.

Adverb phrase

Functions as an adverb; might include prepositional phrases and/or multiple adverbs

Let’s go walking after dinner.

Ignacia walked wearily and unsteadily.



Adapted from Appendix A, “Writing for Nonnative English Speakers” in Writer’s Handbook v 1.0  used according to Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

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