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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Note: Keep 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.
- Wait here till I come back.
- Put the key where you can find it easily.
- I am happy that you have liked it.
- We shall stay with you if it rains.
- Till I come back – is the adverbial clause of time.
- Where you can find it easily – is the adverbial clause of place.
- That you have liked it – is the adverbial clause of reason.
- If it rains – is the adverbial clause of a condition.