Published on by

What Are Clauses?

When learning sentence structures like simple, compound, and complicated sentence forms, they must also learn about independent and dependent clauses. 

Having a thorough knowledge of the many sorts of clauses in English is one of the greatest methods to improve language at the sentence level, despite its complexity.

Improve your sentences’ clarity, concision, and correctness, and your paragraphs will improve as well (and so, therefore, will your essays and grades). 

Here, in this article, we will focus mainly on an extensive explanation of the different kinds of sentences and their significance in academic writing.

Clauses — What are They?

Clauses are a group of words that comprises a linked subject and verb. This link is critical; rather than being a random arrangement of words, a phrase contains information about what the subject is or is doing. 

A clause may often—but not always—function as a standalone sentence because it conveys action or a state of being.

There may be just one clause in a sentence or numerous clauses. A clause’s sole distinguishing feature must have a linked subject and verb.

Clauses serve many different functions in English; thus, there are many different ways to arrange and combine them.

Even though you use clauses in your speech and writing daily, it’s easy to ignore the nuances of clauses in English.

 Learn how clauses are categorized, what functions they play in sentences, how to mix clauses to express yourself, and the distinction between independent and dependent clauses by reading on.

How to Classify Clauses in English?

A clause sits between a phrase and a sentence in terms of conveying a full notion. In many circumstances, a clause may be used as a whole sentence. 

A term, on the other hand, cannot. 

A brief explanation of the distinction between a phrase and a clause is as follows:

Phrase: dances gracefully

Clause: Andy dances gracefully.

The clause, in this case, might be a standalone sentence. It may also be used as a component of a longer phrase.

Consider the following scenario:

  • “Since she is a natural dancer, Andy dances gracefully.”

Difference Between Clauses and Sentences

When learning sentence-level grammar, this is often the first thing you’ll ask yourself.

Contrary to popular belief, a single clause may constitute a sentence, but a sentence does not have to be made up of a single clause. This is due to the fact that sentences are made up of one or more clauses. 

Simple sentences, for example, only need one clause; compound sentences, on the other hand, require two or more clauses:

Sentence StructureClausesExamples
Simple Sentenceconsisted of one independent clause“I like studying the English language.” 
Compound Sentencesconsisted of two independent clauses“I like studying the English language, and I like interacting with other students.”
Complex Sentencesconsisted of 1 dependent (subordinate) and 1 independent (main) clause“Because I like studying English, I am able to converse with other students.” 
Compound-Complex Sentencesconsisted of two independent (main) clauses and 1 dependent (subordinate) clause (or vice versa)“Because I like studying English, I am doing my best to practice more often so I can be fluent in the language.”

Difference Between Independent and Dependent Clauses

Sentence structures are clearly made up of a pattern of independent and dependent clauses.

All clauses, except non-finite sentences, need a subject and a verb; therefore, what distinguishes dependent and independent clauses?

A comparison may be found in the following two tables:

Independent ClauseDependent Clause
May be used as sentences on their own.

Have a subject and a verb at the very least.

Objects, complements, and adverbials may also be included.

Serve as the foundation for simple, compound, and complex structures.

Coordinating conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs, commas, and semicolons may all be used together.

Always have a limit
Cannot be used as a sentence on its own.

Have a subject and a verb at the very least.

Objects, complements, and adverbials may also be included.

Serve as the foundation for complex and compound-complex structures.

May be used in combination with subordinating conjunctions and commas.

It may be either finite or non-finite

What are the Types of Clauses?

A clause is a series of connected words, similar to a phrase, but it contains a subject and verb, unlike a phrase.

An independent clause contains a full notion and may stand alone as a cohesive phrase in addition to having a subject and verb. 

A subordinate or dependent phrase, on the other hand, does not represent a full notion and so is not a sentence. 

A sentence fragment is a typical mistake that occurs when a subordinate phrase stands alone. Below are different kinds of clauses:

  • Dependent clause
  • Participial Clause
  • Infinitival Clause
  • Independent Clause
  • Relative Clause

Dependent Clauses

A dependent clause is an incomplete sentence. Subordinate clauses are another name for dependent clauses. These clauses, as their name says, rely on independent clauses to explain concepts effectively. 

Three key grammar rules of dependent clauses

Let’s start with three of the most popular dependent clause rules. 

Rule 1: The first guideline is to introduce dependent clauses.

Proper subordinate conjunctions should be used, the most frequent of which are listed below. 

Because each of these conjunctions has a particular meaning, indicating things like cause, concession, and condition, you should study them thoroughly:

  • Cause: in order that, so that, as, since, because

  • Condition: unless, provided that, if, in case, even if

  • Location: whereas, where, wherever

  • Concern: although, even though, though

  • Comparison: similarly, in comparison, comparable to, as though

Rule 2: You should never construct a dependent clause without including at least one independent clause.

This is because a single dependent clause results in an ungrammatical phrase, known as an incomplete sentence fragment:


  • Wrong: I am learning the English language. Although I find it very challenging. 
  • Right: 
    • A: I am learning the English language, although I find it very challenging.

  • B: Although I find it very challenging, I am learning the English language.

Rule 3: The third and final rule is likewise shown by these two situations.

When it begins with a dependent clause, a comma must be used to separate the dependent from the independent clause. 

What are Adjective, Adverbial, and Noun Clauses?

We will look at the three sorts of finite dependent clauses in this section: adjective, adverbial, and noun clauses.

We’ll go over their structure, purpose, and distribution, as well as the most significant grammatical rules. 

Each of these three forms of dependent clauses has a subject and a verb that may be adjusted for a time through tense and aspect as finite clauses. 

As a Noun Clause:

  • “The students perfectly followed everything she instructed.”

The phrase “everything she instructed” in this example is a dependent clause that functions as a noun since it conveys the precise “thing” that the instructor, the sentence’s subject, understands.

The dependent clause could be substituted with his explanation, and the phrase would still be correct:

  • “The students perfectly followed her instructions.”

Try replacing a sentence with a noun to see whether it’s a noun clause. You have a noun clause if your statement still makes sense.

Here are two additional noun clause examples, this time with swapped-in nouns:

  • “Hey, do you know when will it be?”
  • “That cat can be where it wants to be.”
  • “I cannot figure out what this is all about.”
  • Whether she accepts the job or not is her business.”

In a sentence, a noun clause replaces the noun. To describe or change the sentence’s topic, it is followed by a connecting or copular verb.

Noun clauses are consisted of a subject and a verb, unlike noun phrases.

As an Adverbial Clause

Dependent clauses that operate as adverbs are known as adverb clauses or adverbial clauses.

Adverb clauses, on the other hand, contain a subject and a verb and are used to describe an adjective/verb/another adverb.

Adverb clauses must include subordinating conjunction to link them to the remainder of the sentence since they are dependent clauses.

You’ll be able to distinguish an adverb clause if you can find subordinating conjunction. Below are a few instances of subordinating conjunctions.

They’re divided into groups based on the sort of inquiry they answer: when, how, why, and where.

  • when: “As soon as the rain stops, they will play in the park.”

  • how: “Unless you”

  • where: “She owns a small coffee plantation, where you can find a civet, which is serving an organic ‘luwak’ coffee.”

  • why: “Since the exam is canceled, they were tasked to work on their project instead.”

While adverb clauses are a bit more sophisticated than single adverbs, they are highly valuable for describing how and why things happen in your writing.

By altering the pace of your sentences as you begin to employ subordinating conjunctions and dependent clauses in your writing, you may add interest.

Adverb clauses assist in building a comprehensive image for the reader by layering vital information.

Examine several adverb clause examples to gain a feel of how these descriptors might help you enhance your writing.

As an Adjectival Clause

An adjective clause or known as relative clause, is a sort of dependent clause used to characterize a noun in a sentence. Even though it is made up of a combination of words rather than a single word, it serves as an adjective. When using an adjective phrase to modify a noun or pronoun, all of the words function together.

  • “The teacher, who wore glasses, wasn’t at school today.”
  • “Chocolate, which many people love, is addictive.”
  • “The reason why she refused the job offer is that she does not like the toxicity that comes with it.”

Using adjective clauses in your writing may help you convey more information about the nouns and pronouns in your work.

This additional explanation will enhance your work and assist the reader in better understanding your point.

You’ll have no issue recognizing adjective clauses and punctuating them appropriately in your work once you understand relative pronouns and how to differentiate between essential and non-essential clauses.

This would be a good opportunity to brush up on the differences between independent and dependent clauses with all this mention about clauses.

Are Participial and Infinitival Clauses Important?

However, not all clauses are finite. Non-finite sentences are especially intriguing (and problematic) since they don’t necessarily contain subjects, which is one of the most important aspects of a clause. 

Furthermore, their verbs cannot express time via tense changes, resulting in a non-finite definition.

Their further classification as participial (A) and infinitival (B) clauses is based on whether their verb is a present/past participle/an infinitive:

  1. “The students practicing for the stage play are all in Junior College.”
  1. “She took a master’s degree to become eligible for the position.”

What Makes a Clause Non-finite?

Non-finite clauses, unlike their finite counterparts, do not often have subjects and are made up of verbs that cannot indicate tense differences. 

In other words, non-finite dependent clauses like ‘practicing for the stage play’ or ‘to become eligible for the position’ convey the same events or states whether they occurred before, during, or after other events. 

Non-finite clauses, which are divided into two forms (participial and infinitival), may be particularly useful for people using English for academic purposes since they allow for the transmission of information more shortly and concisely.

Participial Clauses

The current participial phrase is the first of at least five kinds of participial clauses.

There are no subjects in these phrases; hence the present participle (‘-ing’) form of the verb is required. They are capable of expressing actions:

happening consecutively:

Cooking the dinner, the guest has arrived.”

caused by another action:

Studying abroad, I learned how to communicate with foreigners.”

happening simultaneously:

“I fell asleep listening to my teacher.”

result due to another action:

“The teacher was cruel, scolding the students.”

The present participial clause with a subject is the second subtype, as seen in the two instances below (the second of which is a reduced relative clause):

  • “While the pupils studied for their test, the teacher could mark in peace.”
  • “The coach who was in charge of the test wasn’t paying attention.”

Perfect participial clauses may be formed using the present participle form of ‘have.’ There are two methods to employ this third subtype:

To explain that one action occurred before another action:

  • Having informed everyone, the teacher soon realized that she hadn’t made the corrections.

To show that the previous action occurred over a certain period of time:

Having taught there for years, the instructor was given a loyalty award. 

Past participial clauses with the ‘–ed’ or ‘–en’ past participles are very useful, especially for reducing the length of passive-voice finite sentences:

The workers were disappointed by the company’s lack of concern and appealed for a wage increase.

“Disappointed by the company’s lack of concern, the workers appealed for a wage increase.”

The final report was presented by the doctors.

“This is the final report submitted by the doctors.”

Finally, gerund participial clauses that utilize the present participle (‘-ing’) verb form takes the place of the sentence’s subjects and objects. 

  • Reading books take you to a new world of discovery.”
  • Studying for the entrance test is nerve-wracking.”

Infinitival Clauses

The infinitival clause is the last form of the dependent clause.

An infinitive in English is a verb that has the word ‘to‘ inserted right before it, such as ‘to work‘ or ‘to jump‘ (although, as you’ll see in the table below, bare infinitives without ‘to‘ are also available). 

The verb that follows ‘to’ in such formations is considered to be non-finite because, unlike participials, it cannot convey temporal differences via tense. 

As shown below, you should understand and use at least seven different forms of infinitival clauses:

SubjectTo be valued is what really matters to me now.
Direct ObjectShe is opting for valuable job offers to accept.
Subject ComplementThe student’s dream is to have a good support system.
AdjectivalMy illness prevented me to continue my journey.
AdverbialYou will need a saucepan to cook it with.
With subjectIt is fairly easy for you to acknowledge that you failed.
Bare infinitiveMr. Nick left the class early.

Independent Clauses

A clause that may stand alone as a sentence is known as an independent clause. Consider the following examples:

  • “Cookies are one of my favorite foods.”
  • “My dog is always barking.”
  • “Lunch was had by the children.”
  • “His vehicle has a bright green color.”

Independent clauses aren’t big or complicated sentences, as you can see. They may surely be found in complicated statements, yet they are classified as simple sentences by definition. 

Complex, compound, and compound-complex sentences are examples of other sentence kinds. 

Each sentence is made up of a different set of independent and dependent clauses. Soon, we’ll look at how to join clauses to make various types of sentences.

What Builds Independent Clauses?

Though all clauses (and hence sentences) must include a subject and a verb to be grammatically correct, these aren’t the only phrase functions available to English speakers when constructing independent clauses. 

Any of the five phrase functions – subject, verb, object, complement, and adverbial – may be used in a single independent clause:

Hebrokethe vaseon the table.

Counting how many different subjects and verbs there are in a sentence is one way to figure out how many clauses there are.

A single independent clause, also known as a simple sentence, is required when a sentence includes just one subject and verb.

Is it Possible to Mix Independent Clauses?

Independent clauses may be joined to make complex sentences and simple phrases. 

A compound sentence is made up of two or more separate clauses that are connected together by a coordinating conjunction (like ‘and,”so,’ or ‘but,’), a conjunctive adverb (like ‘although,’ or ‘therefore,’), or a semicolon (;):

Simple SentenceCompound Sentence

“Dahlia is a graceful dancer.”

“She is also a straight-A student.”

“Dahlia is a graceful dancer and she is also a straight-A student.”

“Dahlia is a graceful dancer; she is also a straight-A student.”

Other sentence patterns, such as complex and compound-complex sentences, rely on independent clauses as well; however, these structures also need at least one dependent clause and one subordinating conjunction.

What are the 6 Rules of English Independent Clauses?

Rule #1: Recognize Sentence Fragments

A sentence is not grammatical unless it has at least one independent phrase with a subject and verb. Sentence fragments are this kind of sentence.

 Keep an eye out for any fragments that (a) only include dependent clauses, (b) only comprise phrases and not sentences, and (c) have no subject or main verb while editing your work before submission. 

If you want to improve your grammar, learn to recognize and repair these problems (our course on sentence fragments may help):

Wrong FormsCorrect Forms
(a)I am cooking this dish. Even though it is not appetizing.I am cooking this dish even though it is not appetizing.
(b)I love food. Like pasta, pizza, and donuts.I love food, like pasta, pizza, and donuts.
(c)The challenging part is that it shows no development at all.The challenging part is that the rating shows no development at all.

Rule #2: Fix Run-on Sentences

Any sentence that has clauses that have not been combined appropriately is referred to be a sentence run-on or ‘fused’ sentence. 

When two separate clauses are brought together to produce a compound phrase without the right punctuation mark or conjunctive word, this results in a run-on:

Leslie was feeling very ill last night she can’t attend the meeting today.

Add a comma and coordinating conjunctionLeslie was feeling very ill last night, so she can’t attend the meeting today.
Add a semi-colon and conjunctive adverb and commaLeslie was feeling very ill last night; hence, she can’t attend the meeting today.
Add a semi-colonLeslie was feeling very ill last night; she can’t attend the meeting today.

Rule #3: Avoid Comma Splicing

Similarly, a comma splice occurs when two separate phrases are connected together with just a comma. 

The three methods for correcting a sentence run-on are also applicable to the comma splice below:

Leslie was feeling very ill last night, she can’t attend the meeting today.

Rule #4: Use the Right Conjunctions

Students should memorize and utilize these conjunctive terms correctly because coordinating conjunctions are used to connect independent clauses to each other, and subordinating conjunctions are used to connect dependent clauses to independent or dependent clauses. 

Here are a few of the more frequent ones:

Coordinating Conjunctionsfor, and, nor, but, yet, or, so
Correlative Conjunctionseither…or, both…and, neither…nor
Subordinating Conjunctionshence, since, unless, if, that, because, as long as, as if, even though, although

Rule #5: Make Use of Conjunctive Adverbs

In academic circumstances, conjunctive adverbs may also be employed to unite or introduce separate phrases. 

These and other conjunctive words, however, have stringent punctuation requirements that must be fulfilled, as detailed in Rule 6:

Conjunctive Adverbsconsequently, nevertheless, otherwise, therefore, thus, furthermore, moreover

Rule #6: Check your Punctuation

Full stops (.), commas (,), and semi-colons (;) are the three punctuation symbols that pupils must master when utilizing independent clauses:

  • To signify the conclusion of both simple and complex sentences (made up of one independent clause), use full stops (made of 2 or more independent clauses)
  • When using coordinating conjunction like ‘and’ or ‘not’ to unite two separate clauses, use a comma before the conjunction
  • Never use merely a comma to join two separate sentences, since this will result in an ungrammatical comma. 
  • When combining two independent sentences with a conjunctive adverb like ‘although’ or ‘therefore,’ place a semicolon preceding the adverb and a comma after it.

Relative Clauses

Even though many students are unsure what a clause is, they will have come across relative clauses when learning English grammar. 

Relative clauses, often known as adjective clauses because they change nouns in the same way as adjectives do, are widespread and highly valuable. They may, however, be rather tough because of their variety and regulations.

What Makes this Clause Unique?

Relative clauses, on the other hand, are dependent clauses. They include a subject and a verb like other clauses, but relative clauses are unique in that they’re used to describe, identify, or offer more information about a noun or noun phrase. 

Below are the two examples:

The instructor, who is a first-time teacher, graduated from Harvard.This example has two clauses and a simple sentence.
I love the gelato that we used to eat in Bali, although it can be very sweet.This example has three clauses.

What are Relative Clauses, and Are They Important?

Relative clauses are clearly common and useful for English speakers, but since this grammatical structure is easy to misunderstand, students must be able to build and apply them appropriately. 

This is chiefly significant if you want to create correct and logical essays and get good scores, as well as shorten your writing. 

You could want to integrate two current phrases into one sentence that includes a relative clause to lower your word count or boost the dynamism of your sentence patterns, for example. 

PronounModifiesUsed withSample
whopeoplesubjectThe teacher, who loves to play games with the students, retired today.
whichthingssubject/objectsReheat the food which we cooked last night.
thatpeople/thingssubject/objectsShe is the teacher that inspired all of us.
whompeopleobjectsShe is the person whom you can run to.
whosethings/peoplepossessive nounsThe old lady, whose garden is always blooming, is well-loved by many.

The pronouns ‘what/whatever‘ and ‘whoever/whomever‘, as well as the adverbs ‘where‘ and ‘when,’ may occasionally be used to initiate relative sentences.

Let’s look at a few instances of each:

  • “We have reaped what we sowed.”
  • “That is the spot where I first saw the stray dog.”
  • “The year 2020 is the time when our lives have changed.”

Are Relative Clauses Important?

Relative clauses are clearly common and useful for English speakers, but since this grammatical structure is easy to misunderstand, it’s critical that students be able to build and apply them appropriately. 

This is mainly vital if you want to create correct and logical essays and get good scores, as well as shorten your writing. 

What are the Types of Relative Clauses?

Free Relative Clauses:

Unlike their bound counterparts, free relative clauses are not constrained to previous phrase components like subjects and objects. 

The sentence ‘what you provided’, for example, does not explain or identify anything in the previous word ‘I evaluated,’ but is just the object of the verb ‘grade,’ as seen below.

  • “We have reaped what we sowed.”
  • “That is the spot where I first saw the stray dog.”
  • “The year 2020 is the time when our lives have changed.”

This category is special since the word ‘what’ may be employed as a relative pronoun while being much less prevalent than bound relative clauses. 

When generating free relative clauses about individuals, English speakers should use ‘who/whom/whoever/whomever‘, whereas those about objects should use ‘what/whatever/whichever‘.

Restrictive Relative Clause

In English, restrictive (also known as defining) relative clauses are quite prevalent.

The information provided by a relative clause is required to fully grasp or identify the previous noun, which makes it restrictive/defining. 

The term’s meaning alters if the relative clause ‘who works hard to achieve their goals’ is removed from the following sentence, for example.

The meaning of the sentence is ‘only dedicated students will succeed,’ but without it, ‘any student can succeed‘:

  • “Any student here who works hard to achieve their goals will succeed in life.”

Non-Restrictive Relative Clause 

Relative clauses that are non-restrictive (or non-defining) convey extra information. While the relative clause ‘who loves to play games with the students’ is fascinating and essential, it is not required for defining or recognizing the preceding noun phrase ‘the teacher’:

  • “The teacher, who loves to play games with the students, retired today.”

When introducing non-restrictive relative clauses in spoken English, we normally stop, although in writing, we use bracketing commas (,).

It’s also worth noting that, whereas restrictive relative clauses may only change nouns and noun phrases, non-restrictive relative clauses can convey additional information about an entire expression, as in the sentence:

  • “He’s constantly late and never does his homework, which I don’t like.”

What are the Rules that Make Relative Clauses Grammatical?

We look at the eight principles that, if properly followed, will enhance a student’s English grammar and grasp of sentence patterns.

Consider taking another short course on sentence clauses once you’ve finished this chapter and the exercises (which are meant to help you track your progress and enhance your language skills).

1. Know the different types of relative clauses

Because some of the rules below apply only to particular kinds of relative clauses, it is important to understand the different types of relative clauses.

2. Make sure to punctuate non-defining relative clauses.

Most related clauses are grammatically correct without punctuation.

However, non-restrictive relative clauses that offer non-essential information to the previous noun or noun phrase need bracketing commas (,).

For example, ‘the severe final test is next Friday.’ In spoken English, pauses frequently reflect this subtlety. 

3. Accurately and correctly use relative clauses

Because practically all relative sentences (save reduced relative clauses) begin with relative pronouns, you must master their usage.

Remember that certain pronouns can introduce both objects and persons, whereas others can only introduce one.

In addition to pronouns, the adverbs ‘when’ and ‘where’ may be used to produce restricted, non-restrictive, reduced, and free relative clauses.

Less often, the pronouns’ whatever’ and ‘whatever ever’ are used to begin free relative clauses

4. Be mindful of the Subject-Verb Agreement

Students often misunderstand subject-verb agreement in relative clauses.

Remember that verbs and nouns must correspond in person and number (singular, plural). In order for a verb to appropriately agree with a relative pronoun, it must agree with the referent noun phrase that follows.

Summary Table of Clauses

Below is a summary table to simply summarize the different kinds of clauses:

Type of ClausesConnectivesExamples of ConjunctionsSample Sentences
Dependent ClausesSubordinating Conjunctionshence, since, unless, if, that, because, as long as, as if, even though, although“I am learning the English language, although I find it very challenging.”

Since she slept late last night, she missed attending her Physics class.”
Independent ClausesCoordinating Conjunctionsfor, and, nor, but, yet, or, so“Dahlia is a graceful dancer and she is also a straight-A student.”

“Leslie was feeling very ill last night, so she can’t attend the meeting today.”
Relative ClausesRelative Pronounswho, what, where, when, which, whom, that, whose“The teacher, who loves to play games with the students, retired today.”

“We have reaped what we sowed.”
Type of Clauses

Why are Clauses Important in Academic Writing?

You should employ a variety of sentence lengths to hold your readers’ interest. Others should be brief and to the point, while others should be lengthy and flowing. 

Your reader will get bored if every sentence in your paper has the same length (or near to the same length). Changing the length of your sentences adds rhythm to your writing and makes it seem more alive.

You need to understand that sentence structure is crucial because it provides us with a foundation for expressing our thoughts clearly in writing. 

When writing, the goal is to use entire sentences that are punctuated appropriately. In order to vary your structure, you need to understand the use of clauses as well as when and where to add them. 

Every phrase you compose has a distinct function. Use a lengthy or short statement, depending on the situation.

Additional FAQs – Sentence Clauses

What Does it Mean to Change the Structure of a Sentence?

Varying your sentence structure or how you construct your words may offer the reader the proper impression or generate fascinating thoughts and ideas. 

On the other hand, repetitive sentence structure may make writing repetitive, confused, or just plain uninteresting.

How Do You Combine Clauses?

You must join clauses when writing a sentence with more than one separate component. 

At least one independent clause appears in every sentence you compose. How you integrate your independent clause with the other clauses in your sentence is determined by the other clauses in your sentence.

When Should You Use Longer Sentences?

Long sentences may easily lose readers, making them ideal for descriptive paragraphs.

Long, flowery phrases might assist you in creating the ambiance you desire while describing the location of your novel.

A sentence may be thought of as a container for a concept.

When explaining a complex notion or concept, you may need a larger container, i.e., a lengthier phrase. 

For example, if you’re writing an academic paper on cause and effect, it could be better to write the complete idea in one phrase rather than two shorter ones.


A group of language enthusiasts with a shared commitment to helping you succeed in your English language journey. With years of experience, relevant certifications, and a deep love for languages, we're here to provide you with the support and resources you need to excel in exams like IELTS, TOEFL, OET, Duolingo and many others. We take pride in helping individuals like you achieve their language goals.