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Clauses, like phrases, are groups of related words, but unlike phrases, it has its own subject and verb. However, not every clause expresses a complete thought.

Look at these examples.

Examples of Clauses
From the examples above, you could have got an idea on the two different types of clauses-one conveys a complete thought and the other does not. The two basic kinds of clauses are: Independent or Subordinate Clause.


Independent Clause

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Independent Clause : Complete thought

An independent clause has a subject and a verb and presents a complete idea, and it therefore can stand alone as a complete sentence.


Independent Clause

Subordinate Clause

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Subordinate Clause : Incomplete thought

A subordinate or dependent clause begins with either subordinating conjunction or relative pronoun, and it therefore does not present a complete idea. Although it has a subject and a verb, subordinate clause cannot stand alone as sentence; it depends on the independent clause for its meaning.

Following are lists of subordinating conjunctions and relative pronouns.

 Subordinating conjunctions 
 after  even if  whether
 although  if  whereas
 as  since  while
 because  though  unless
 before  when  than

 Relative Pronouns 
 that  whom
 which  whose
 whichever  whosever 
 who  whomever 


Subordinate Clause Examples

Can it stand alone as a sentence? No. It is because it lacks something for its completeness. 
The meaning of a subordinate clause is complete only when the clause is attached to an independent clause.

Let’s try combining this dependent clause with an independent clause.

Subordination Clause

Let’s look at more examples

1. Jones answered the question as if he knew the subject well.

Jones answered the question (Independent clause)

as if he knew the subject well (Dependent clause)

2. Mr. Rex left his position after learning of his company’s unlawful practices.

Mr. Rex left his position (Independent clause)

after learning of his company’s unlawful practices (Dependent clause)

3. Although it was not easy, Scott finished the test early.

Although it was not easy (Dependent clause)

Scott finished the test early (Independent clause)

When a dependent clause begins a sentence, the clause is followed by a comma.

Types of Subordinate Clauses

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Unlike independent clauses, subordinate clauses are said to perform various functions in a sentence. Within sentences, subordinate clauses act as either adjectives, adverbs, or nouns.
  • Adjective Clauses
  • Adverb Clauses
  • Noun Clauses

Adjective Clause

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An adjective clause, also known as relative clause, modifies a noun or a pronoun by telling what kind or which one. An adjective clause is usually connected to the word it modifies by one of the relative pronouns.
  • who – people
  • which – things
  • that – both people and things
  • whom – object of a relative clause
  • whose – indicate possession

Adjective Clause

Sometimes, it is connected by a relative adverb such as after, before, since, when, where, or why.


1.  The spot where we stood afforded us a magnificent view of the surrounding hills.
2. There are times when I wonder why I quit the job.

Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Adjective Clauses

An adjective clause that is not essential to the basic meaning of a sentence is a nonrestrictive clause; it is set off from the rest of the sentence by commas.

An adjective clause that is essential to the basic meaning of a sentence is a restrictive clause; a restrictive clause is not set off.

His best movie, which won several awards, was about the life of slaves.

which won several awards (Nonrestrictive clause)

  • The underlined clause is nonrestrictive because the information in the clause does not restrict or limit the noun it modifies. Therefore, it is set off by commas.

Where is the letter that came yesterday?

that came yesterday (Restrictive clause)

  • In the sentence above, the clause “that came yesterday” is needed to specify which letter, since the listener has no other way of knowing which letter is being referred to. As it is essential to the meaning of the sentence, it is not set off by commas.

Adverb Clause

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A subordinate clause that modifies a verb, an adjective, or an adverb is called an Adverb Clause. It does this by pointing out when, where, how, why, to what extent, or under what condition.


Adverb Clause

Types of Adverb Clauses

Adverb Clauses can usually be categorized as one of the following:

Type of Adverb Clause   Subordinating Conjunction 
 Adverb of Time  when, whenever, since, while, as, before, after, till, until, as soon as 
 Adverb of Place  where, wherever, whereas
 Adverb of Purpose  that, so that, in order that
 Adverb of Reason  since, that, because
 Adverb of Manner  as, like, as if
 Adverb of Condition  if, whether


1. I will go to play after I study my lessons. (Time)                   
2. We can play where we want to. (Place)                                                       
3. Meet me in the office so that we can discuss the project. (Purpose)                                                                                          
4. I did not go out to play since I had fever.  (Reason) 
5. Smith is acting as if he has stolen something. (Manner)
6. If it rains, the match will be cancelled. (Condition)
7. Although I studied hard, I could not pass the exam. (Supposition)

Noun Clause

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A subordinate clause that acts as a noun in a sentence is called a noun clause. It answers the question “What?” Words commonly used to introduce noun clauses include that, what, whatever, who, whoever, whom, whomever, which, whichever

A Noun clause functions as 
  • Subject
  • Object
  • Subject complement
  • Object of Preposition

1. What my teacher said was downright inspiring.

 What my teacher said (Subject)

2. The director will give whoever does best in this audition the lead role.

whoever does best in this audition (Object)

3. The wonderful thing about my friends is that they all get along so well.

That they all get along so wellSubject (Complement)

4. I was not responsible for what Sally did.

what Sally did (Object of preposition)
More topics in Clauses
Relative Clauses Coordinate Clause
Restrictive Clause Dependent Clause
Independent Clause Adverbial Clause
Non Restrictive Clause Defining Relative Clauses
Concessive Clauses
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