In English grammar, a sentence is made up of clauses and phrases. Clauses and phrases are both groups of words, but they function differently in a sentence. Understanding the difference between clauses and phrases is important to help you construct correct sentences and communicate effectively in written and spoken English.
A phrase is a group of words that acts as a single part of speech but does not have a subject and a predicate. In other words, a phrase does not express a complete thought. Phrases are often used as modifiers to add detail or information to a sentence.
Here are some examples of phrases:
- The tall man in the hat
- Running around the block
- With a big smile on her face
- In the morning
- After the game
In each of these examples, the group of words is a phrase because it does not have both a subject and a predicate.
A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate and expresses a complete thought. There are two types of clauses: independent clauses and dependent clauses.
Independent clauses can stand alone as sentences because they express a complete thought. They are also called main clauses. Here are some examples of independent clauses:
- She ate pizza for dinner.
- He plays the guitar every day.
- I went to the park yesterday.
Dependent clauses, on the other hand, cannot stand alone as sentences because they do not express a complete thought. They are also called subordinate clauses. Dependent clauses must be attached to independent clauses to create a complete sentence. Here are some examples of dependent clauses:
- Because she was hungry
- After he finishes his work
- Since it is raining outside
Dependent clauses often begin with subordinating conjunctions such as because, after, and since. These words help to connect the dependent clause to the independent clause.
Here are some examples of sentences that contain both independent and dependent clauses:
- She ate pizza for dinner because she was hungry.
- He plays the guitar every day after he finishes his work.
- I went to the park yesterday since it is raining outside.
In each of these examples, the independent clause is joined to the dependent clause to create a complete sentence.
Now let’s practice identifying clauses and phrases:
- The man who is wearing a red shirt is my friend.
- Clause: who is wearing a red shirt is my friend.
- Phrase: the man who is wearing a red shirt.
- Running through the park, she felt free.
- Clause: she felt free.
- Phrase: running through the park.
- Although he studied hard, he failed the test.
- Clause: he failed the test.
- Phrase: although he studied hard.
- My cat, who is black and white, likes to sleep in the sun.
- Clause: who is black and white likes to sleep in the sun.
- Phrase: my cat.
- After the concert ended, we went out to eat.
- Clause: we went out to eat.
- Phrase: after the concert ended.
Remember that phrases and clauses are both important parts of sentences, and understanding the difference between them can help you to write and speak more effectively.