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What is a Clause?


I get this question a lot from people learning English as a second language.

A clause is a group of related words with both a subject and a verb. This is different from a phrase, which is a group of words that do not have both a subject and a verb.

Here are examples to help us understand:

Clause: I really like to eat pineapple.

Phrase: In the morning.

Dependant versus Independent clauses:

Yes, there are 2 types of clauses that are used in English grammar. The independent clause and the dependent clause, also called a subordinate clause.

The independent clause has all of the parts of speech needed to stand alone as a complete sentence.

A dependent clause depends on another part of the sentence to get the full meaning.


Here we see 2 independent clauses: 1) He is faster than her. 2) The dog is fat.

Here we see 2 dependant clauses: 2) Because he is faster than her, 2) Since the dog is fat, …

Here we see an independent clause + dependant clause: He did not think he could eat the whole pizza, but he was still able to finish it all.

As we can see, the independent clause “He did not think he could eat the whole pizza” can be a sentence by itself.

When we look at the dependent clause “but he was still able to finish it all.”, there must be more information to understand what the sentence is about.

What is a relative clause?

A relative clause is a dependant clause that begins with a relative pronoun, like that, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, whomever, whose, and of which.

Here are some examples of relative clauses:

1. I went to a restaurant where they serve raw food.

2. I know a man who works 80 hours per week.

3. I am thinking about a thing that is used to cut holes.

What is a noun clause?

Sometimes when we speak English, we use a clause to represent a single noun. This is called a noun clause. Let’s have a look below at a normal noun compared to a noun clause:

1. You should know about healthy food. (normal noun)

2. You should know about what to eat to be healthy. (noun clause)

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By: Luke 

ETO American English teacher

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