Home » Intermediate English Grammar » Clauses


clause is a closely related group of words that includes both a subject and a verb.

  • The work was difficult, but the results were worth it.

Clauses contrast with phrases, which do not have subjects and verbs.

An independent clause expresses a complete thought and can stand on its own as a sentence:

  • Jack painted the fence.
  • Jack painted the fence, but with the wrong paint.

dependent clause contains a subject and verb but does not express a complete thought and cannot stand on its own. A dependent clause relies on an independent clause to complete its meaning. In these examples, the independent clause is in boldface and the dependent clause is italicized.

  • The movers ruined the china cabinet that belonged to my great-grandmother.
  • My best friend, who paints oils and watercolors, has a show at the art gallery.

Dependent clauses are often introduced by either a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun. Dependent clauses introduced by a subordinating conjunction are called subordinate clauses, and those introduced by relative pronouns are called relative clauses.

  • The parade, which had been planned for months, had to be moved. (relative pronoun)
  • I thought it was a good deal until I heard the price. (subordinating conjunction)

Like phrases, clauses serve a variety of functions in a sentence. They can act as nouns (subjects or objects), adjectives, or adverbs.

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