Parts of a Sentence: The Clause

In grammar, the sentence is the smallest independent unit which expresses a complete thought. Perhaps, you already know that there are three basic kinds of sentence structures namely:

  • Simple sentence
  • Compound Sentence
  • Complex Sentence

One of the similarities of the three kinds mentioned above is that all of them are made up of at least one clause.

So what is a clause anyway?

In its simplest sense, a clause is the most basic grammatical unit which conveys a complete preposition. Just like a sentence, it is also a group of words composed of a subject and a verb.

Different Types of Clauses

Now that you already have an idea on what a clause is, the different types of clauses will now be discussed.

1. Independent Clause

The independent clause, also called the main clause, is the type which can stand on its own. It expresses a complete thought, and every kind of sentence structure must contain at least one independent clause (or else, the group of words will just be a sentence fragment instead of an actual sentence).

Formula: independent clause= subject + verb

Examples:

  • The pretty girl stumbled across the stage.

This whole simple sentence is the independent clause. The subject is the “girl,” while the verb is “stumbled.”

Note: All simple sentences are composed of one independent clause.

  • Because my sister is lactose intolerant, she only drinks goat’s milk.

In this complex sentence, the italicized part is the independent clause. You can notice that it has a subject (she) and a verb (drinks), and it expresses a complete thought even without the first part of the sentence.

  • I enrolled in the Italian class, and my brother took the French class.

In this compound sentence, there are two independent clauses (italicized parts) joined together by the clause connector “and.” For the first independent clause, the subject is “I,” while the verb is “enrolled.” On the other hand, the second independent clause has “brother” as the subject, and “took” as the verb.

2. Dependent Clause

Unlike the first type, a dependent clause (subordinate clause) cannot stand on its own, even though it has its own subject and verb.

Formula: dependent clause= subordinate conjunction + subject + verb

Examples:

  • As the days passed by, he began to understand what the old woman said.

In the italicized dependent clause, the subject is “days,” and the verb is “passed.”

  • Because the weather is too bad, my dad decided to postpone the trip.

In this sample sentence, you can notice that although the italicized part has a subject (weather) and  a verb (is), it still needs the latter part of the sentence in order to make complete sense.

3. Relative Clause

Also called an adjectival clause, the relative clause functions as an adjective, and cannot stand on its own.

Formulas: relative clause= relative pronoun (whom, who, which, whose, that) + subject + verb

relative clause= relative adverb (where, why, when) + subject + verb

relative clause= relative pronoun acting as a subject +               verb

Example:

  • To calm her best friend, Monica offered a cookie which Rachel did not accept.

The relative pronoun in this sentence is “which,” the subject is “Rachel,” and the verb is “did accept” (“not” is an adverb).

4. Noun Clauses

As the name suggests, this type refers to any clause that acts as a noun.

Example:

  • You really do not want to know what the old man does inside that rugged cabin.

(The italicized part is the noun clause.)

Final Thoughts

A strong grasp on the concept of clauses is necessary for you to understand compound sentences and complex sentences. It can also help you in determining the appropriate clause connector to use, when to use commas, and avoid sentence fragments or run-on sentences. Needless to say, a deep understanding of clauses can increase the clarity of your writing, and significantly improve your overall writing style.

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