What Are Clauses? (with Examples)

A clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb.

A clause can be distinguished from a phrase, which does not contain a subject and a verb (e.g., in the afternoon, drinking from the bowl).

An independent clause can express a complete thought (and can be a standalone sentence). A dependent clause is usually a supporting part of a sentence, and it cannot stand by itself as a meaningful proposition (idea).

Examples of Independent Clauses

Here are some examples of independent clauses (shaded):

Examples of Dependent Clauses

Here are the same examples with the dependent clauses shaded: These three dependent clauses (or subordinate clauses as they're also called) could have been independent clauses. However, the opening word(s) (in these examples after, Even though, and but) turned them into dependent clauses. The opening words are known as dependent words, the main type of which is subordinating conjunctions.

How Are Clauses Used in Sentences?

Clauses can play a variety of roles in sentences. A clause can act as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.

Noun Clauses

Compare the example above to this: Read more about noun clauses.

Adjective Clauses

Compare the example above to this: Read more about adjective clauses.

If an adjective clause could be removed without wrecking the sentence (i.e., it just adds additional information), then it should be offset with commas. (You could equally use brackets or dashes.) A clause which can be safely removed is called a non-restrictive clause. A restrictive clause, on the other hand, is one which cannot be removed because it's essential to the sentence. Restrictive clauses are not offset with commas. For example: .

Adverbial Clauses

Compare the example above to this: Read more about adverbial clauses.

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See Also

What are verbs? What is a phrase? What is an independent clause? What is a dependent clause? What are subordinating conjunctions? What are nouns? What are noun clauses? What are adjectives? What are adjective clauses? What are adverbs? What are adverbial clauses? What are non-restrictive clauses? What are restrictive clauses? Glossary of grammatical terms