A clause is a group of words that
contains its own subject and verb
Independent Clause
An independent clause can stand alone as a
Michelle gave me a ride to the basketball game.
An independent clause may appear anywhere in a sentence. It may be as short as two
words. If it could stand alone as a sentence, though, it is independent.
Time flew by.
Dependent (Subordinate) Clause
A dependent or subordinate clause also has a subject and verb, but it cannot
stand alone as a sentence. Dependent clauses may start with relative
pronouns, subordinating conjunctions, or other words. Looking for those
“signal words” can help you determine where a dependent clause begins.
Michelle gave me a ride to the basketball game because my car
broke down.
Dependent clauses may appear anywhere in a sentence. Sometimes they
even interrupt independent clauses.
The movie that we watched in class was really good.
Clauses are the big Legos of our
Understanding clauses is key to understanding how we use
language. We oftentimes use multiple clauses while
writing and speaking, but we often are not aware of it.
The movie that we watched in class was really good, and it received
multiple Academy Awards because the actors were so great.
Understanding clauses is also key to comprehending punctuation. Many people do
not understand commas because they do not understand how we use commas to
separate different types of clauses.
Adjective Clauses
Adjective clauses begin with relative pronouns and function as adjectives.
That, which, who, whom, whose
When, where (these last two are not relative pronouns but may also begin
adjective clauses)
I have read nearly every novel that Shirley Ann Grau has written.
Sometimes the relative pronoun serves as the subject of the adjective clause.
Dr. Charles Richter devised the Richter scale, which is used to measure the
magnitude of earthquakes.
Nonessential and Essential Clauses
These are types of adjective clauses and are keys to beginning to understand comma
use. An essential (restrictive) clause provides information that is necessary to the
meaning of a sentence and is NOT set off by commas. A nonessential (nonrestrictive)
clause provides extra information that is not crucial to the meaning of a sentence, so
we set it off with commas to show that it’s extra information that we don’t really
Essential: Students who are going to the track meet can take the bus at
7:45 A.M.
Nonessential: Nancy Stevens, whose father is a pediatrician, plans to
study medicine.
Underline the adjective clauses in the following sentences.
1. A speech community is a group of people who speak the same language.
2. There are speech communities that contain millions of people and some that have only a few
3. The first language that you learn is called your native language.
4. People who master a second language are bilingual.
5. Those who conduct business internationally often need to know more than one language.
6. English, French, and Spanish, which many diplomats can speak, are among the six official
languages of the United States.
7. Russian, Chinese, and Arabic are the other three languages that are used officially at the UN.
8. Tourists traveling to countries where they do not know the local languages can find
themselves at a disadvantage.
9. French is a language that is widely understood in parts of Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and
the Middle East.
10. These sentences are the most boring ones that I have ever read in my life.
Noun Clauses
A noun clause is a subordinate clause that begins with a noun. Most of the words that
begin noun clauses start with the letters wh.
Common introductory words for noun clauses
That Jim Hynes is a talented writer is an understatement. (SUBJECT)
Another course in computers is what the guidance counselor recommended. (PN)
Infinitive Clause
An infinitive clause consists of an infinitive with a subject, along with any modifiers
that infinitive has. The entire infinitive clause can function as a direct object.
I wanted her to tell the story about Mr. Omar.
Jane would like us to prepare the ingredients.
Adverb Clauses
Adverb clauses begin with subordinating conjunctions and are used as adverbs, telling
where, when, how, why, and to what extent.
Because you are my friend, I like you.
We will present our project unless you are absent tomorrow.
Because prepositional phrases can also begin with words like after, as, before, since,
and until, make sure you remember that prepositional phrases do not have verbs in
them, while clauses do.
I have tennis practice after school. (Prepositional phrase)
I have tennis practice after I return from the dentist. (Adverb clause)
Punctuation with adverb clauses
When an adverb clause begins a sentence, it is followed up with a comma:
If we leave now, we will avoid the rush hour traffic.
When an adverb clause is at the end of a sentence, there is no comma to separate it
from the rest of the sentence.
We will avoid the rush hour traffic if we leave now.
Elliptical Clauses
Part of a clause may be left out when its meaning can be clearly understood from the
context of a sentence. Such a clause is called an elliptical clause.
Leilana finished her research sooner than Marta [did].
While [he was] painting, Rembrandt concentrated completely on his work.

Clauses - grammar