Clauses

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Types of Clauses

‘Clauses’ is a very important chapter in English grammar and carries significant marks weightage in CBSE syllabus. There are many types of clauses. Knowing each type by definition and application is crucial for building a strong base in the English language. No matter how simply you are asked to write, having a clear knowledge of clauses helps you to sharpen your written communication skills. However, before learning about the types of clauses, you must know the meaning of ‘clause’ and its general application. So, here you go…


What is the Meaning of ‘Clause?’

Clauses, in English, are a group of words or phrases with only one subject and one finite verb. The subject may be hidden but the verb should be distinguishable. The verb can be a single word (i.e. as “worked,” “played,” or “sang”) or contain helping verbs (i.e. “will eat” or “has been writing”). A phrase is a group of words that doesn’t have a subject, a predicate, finite verb which makes no sense independently and can be added to a sentence as an adjective, noun or adverb. Whereas we can add a clause to expand a sentence meaningfully, but unlike a phrase, a clause may have a proper sense like a sentence, as it has a subject and a predicate i.e. finite verb. Let us see what is a clause example:

  • I fell from the bed. (One clause sentence)

  • When I came here, I met Diaz. (Two clause sentence)

  • When I came here, I met Diaz, and she waved at me. (Three clause sentence)

Let us get greater insight into the different clauses and its types along with clause examples. 


Kinds of clauses

There are two major types of clauses in English grammar:

  1. Independent or Principal Clause:

To explain what is meant by an independent clause, we must know that it consists of a subject and a finite verb makes complete sense by itself. Thus, it is a complete sentence by itself.

For Example:

  • Go back to the town.

  • He is handsome but he is stupid.

                            Principal clause


  1. Subordinate or Dependent Clause:

A subordinate or dependent clause expresses an incomplete intent and cannot function on its own. To complete a sentence, dependent clauses are joined with independent clauses by the help of subordinators as a subordinate clause cannot form a complete sentence alone.

In each of the dependent clause, the first word is a subordinator i.e. relative pronouns, subordinating conjunctions, and noun clause markers. For example:

  • If that’s a taco, I’m having it.

Here “if” is a subordinator connecting the independent clause “I’m having it” with “that’s a taco”.

Subordinate clauses can be further divided into different varieties. Here are the types of clauses with examples:

  1. Adverbial Clauses

These are groups of words that modify verbs, other adverbs, or adjectives and are used to explain when, where, why, how, how much, or under what circumstances the action of the sentence took place. For example:

  • Since dad will be home early, I have to leave now.

  1. Adjective Clause

It is a dependent clause that modifies a noun or pronoun in a sentence, hence acts as an adjective. It starts with a pronoun like who, whose, that or which. Adjective clause examples are:

  • Green vegetables, which many people dislike, are filled with nutrients.

  • My dog Pasha, who loves mangoes, eats them under the dining table.

  1. Noun Clauses

These are a group of words that are bound together to behave like a noun. Nouns clauses are dependent clauses that are used when a single word is not enough. They often begin with words like how, that, what, when, where, which, who, why. For example:

  • Raju did not know where he was.

  • What she said at the party was not acceptable.

  1. Conditional Clauses

Such a clause usually begins with if or unless and describes something likely or feasible.

For Example: 

Unless it rains tomorrow, I will go to school.

          Conditional clause

  1. Relative Clauses

A relative clause is connected to the main clause by a word such as which, what, that, whom etc. For example:

I was wearing a dress that I bought for my reception.

                                                  Relative clause


There Are Two Different Types Of Clauses That Are Relative

  • Restrictive Relative clause: without this, the sentence does not make much sense.

It reminded me of my school which is more than a hundred years old.

  • Non-Restrictive relative clause: this provides extra information.

The lady distributed woollens, which the old man took.

For rapid improvement in the quality of writing it is crucial to know where to use the exact types of clauses correctly. It enhances the ability to communicate with an audience drawing their direct attention and avoid apprehensive sentence fragments.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How to identify subordinate clauses?

To identify a subordinate clause, one must know that a subordinate clause cannot stand alone as a sentence due to the absence of a subject and a finite verb. In a sentence, the main clause i.e. independent clause, when read out makes complete sense, whereas subordinate clause forms an incomplete sentence fragment. The clause following subordinators like relative pronoun (that, who, which etc) and subordinate conjunctions (unless, if, as if etc ) can be identified as a subordinate clause. For example:

After the dog spill the milk on the carpet, I called in for the deep cleaners.

In the above sentence “after” is the subordinator, thus “the dog spill the milk on the carpet” dependent clause.

2. How can independent clauses be connected?

There are three basic ways to join independent clauses:

  • Adding a Comma and a Conjunction: A comma and conjunction indicate a pause after which the conjunction helps to proceed with the idea.

E.g. And - She stepped into the room, threw her bag on the sofa, and when straight for a shower.

  • Semicolons indicate the right amount of pause while still connecting the major ideas. They are especially suited for joining two independent clauses.

E.g. I didn’t eat the last taco; I ate the last piece of pizza.

  • Conjunctive adverbs along with semicolons are well suited to join independent clauses or two complete sentences. They connect two sensible ideas within one sentence. These adverbs balance and contrast items, list events or exemplify cause and effect. 

E.g. I went to the mall; however, the dress I was looking for was out of stock.