Consider the sentence- I like English grammar. Definitely, this is a sentence. But do you know this is also a clause? In fact, it is both a sentence and a clause. What’s happening? Let’s learn about clauses in English grammar.

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A quick revisit of our grammar lessons tells that we group different words like adjectives, verbs, nouns etc. to form a sentence. Technically, a sentence is a group of words that makes complete sense by itself. We might also be familiar with phrases.

In contrast to a sentence, a phrase is a group of words that doesn’t have a subject, a predicate, finite verb and also is not independently meaningful. We need to use a phrase in a sentence to add meaning to it. A phrase can find use as an adjective, noun or adverb.

We can say that clauses lie somewhat in the middle of sentences and phrases. Technically, a clause is a group of words which have their own subject, predicate, finite verb and may or may not be independently meaningful. Further, clauses are of two types- principal or independent clause and subordinate or dependent clause.

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Classification of Clauses

Independent or Principal Clause

Interestingly, an independent clause is a group of words that consists of subject, predicate, finite verb and can make complete sense by themselves. So how does it differ from a sentence? Exactly, it doesn’t. An independent clause is as good as a sentence. Note that, independent clauses cannot be used as nouns, adverbs or adjectives simply because they are complete sentences by themselves. Let’s explore some examples.

  • It is dark.
  • You should go.
  • He is intelligent but he is selfish.
  • I want to come but I have some work to do.

The group of words in bold make complete sense independently and hence are examples of independent clauses.

Sentences: Clauses

(Source: englishgrammarrevolution)

Dependent or Subordinate Clause

As the name suggests, dependent clauses need an independent clause to complete its meaning. Again, a dependent clause also consists of a subject, predicate and a finite verb but it is not meaningful all by itself. A key point to remember is that dependent clauses, just like phrases, can be used as a noun, adverb or adjective. Let’s discuss these individually.

Noun Clause

A dependent clause that functions like a noun in the sentence and generally acts as the subject or verb of the object is known as a noun clause. For example:

  • I think that you will like it. Here the noun clause- that you will like it, acts as an object of the verb think.
  • Where she went is not known to anyone. Here the noun clause- where she went, acts as a subject of the verb- is not known.

Adjective Clause

An adjective clause is a dependent clause that acts as an adjective and hence qualifies a noun or pronoun in a sentence. For example:

  • I used the notebook that had a red coloured cover. Here the adjective clause- that had a red coloured cover, tells about the noun i.e. the notebook.
  • The hat which was made of jute was my favourite. Here the adjective clause-  which was made of jute, speaks about the noun i.e. the hat.

Adverb Clause

An adverb clause is a dependent clause that does the job of an adverb i.e. modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb in a sentence. Of course, adverbial clauses can be further classified according to the various kinds of adverbs. For example:

  • Wait here till I come back. Here – till I come back, is an adverbial clause of time.
  • I shall be late as I have a meeting. Here –  as I have a meeting, is an adverbial clause of reason.

NoteKeep in mind as a rule of thumb that a lot of times dependent clauses start with a conjunction. This is not always true but can be of great help for identification of dependent clauses in a sentence.

A Solved Example for You

Q: Identify the adverb clauses and state their functions.

  1. Wait here till I come back.
  2. Put the key where you can find it easily.
  3. I am happy that you have liked it.
  4. We shall stay with you if it rains.


  1.  Till I come back – is the adverbial clause of time.
  2. Where you can find it easily – is the adverbial clause of place.
  3. That you have liked it – is the adverbial clause of reason.
  4. If it rains – is the adverbial clause of a condition.
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5 responses to “Clauses”

  1. Sanika says:

    Identify type of clause , it’s a lesson that has stood me in good stead

  2. Sankalan Dey says:

    1 vote,= an indian student

  3. Sankalan Dey says:


  4. lala says:

    People continue polluting the environment _____ they know its bad effects. Subordinating conjunction
    As a teacher, _______ I see people improving their English, I feel really good. Subordinating conjunction

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