This is “Clauses and Phrases”, section 1.15 (from appendix 1) from the book Writers' Handbook (v. 1.0). For details on it (including licensing), click here.

For more information on the source of this book, or why it is available for free, please see the project's home page. You can browse or download additional books there. You may also download a PDF copy of this book (17 MB) or just this chapter (453 KB), suitable for printing or most e-readers, or a .zip file containing this book's HTML files (for use in a web browser offline).

Has this book helped you? Consider passing it on:
Creative Commons supports free culture from music to education. Their licenses helped make this book available to you.
DonorsChoose.org helps people like you help teachers fund their classroom projects, from art supplies to books to calculators.

21.15 Clauses and Phrases

Clauses include both subjects and verbs that work together as a single unit. When they form stand-alone sentences, they’re called independent clauses. An independent clause can stand alone or can be used with other clauses and phrases. A dependent clause also includes both a subject and a verb, but it must combine with an independent clause to form a complete sentence.

Types of Dependent Clauses Descriptions Examples
Adverb clause Serves as an adverb; tells when, how, why, where, under what condition, to what degree, how often, or how much To avoid sunburn, she plastered her body with sunscreen.
Noun clause Serves as a noun when attached to a verb That she would win the race seemed quite likely.
She thought that she would win the race.
Adjective clause (also called a relative clause) Begins with a relative pronoun (that, who, whom, whose, which) or a relative adverb (when, where, why); functions as an adjective; attaches to a noun; has both a subject and a verb; tells what kind, how many, or which one The day that he lost his watch was an unlucky day.*
The house where they lived is gone.
Appositive clause Functions as an appositive by restating a noun or noun-related verb in clause form; begins with that; typical nouns involved include possibilities such as assumption, belief, conviction, idea, knowledge, and theory The idea that Josie will someday be taller than me is crazy.
*In some instances, the relative pronoun or adverb can be implied (e.g., “The day he lost his watch was an unlucky day”).

Phrases are groups of words that work together as a single unit but do not have a subject or a verb. English includes five basic kinds of phrases.

Types of Phrases Descriptions Examples
Noun phrase Multiple words serving as a noun Darcy ate a ham sandwich.
Verb phrase Used as the verb in sentences that are in the progressive and perfect tenses The class should have started a half-hour earlier.
Prepositional phrase Begins with a preposition (covered in more depth in Section 21.9 "Gerunds and Infinitives") Work will be easier after the holiday rush.
Adjective phrase Functions as an adjective; might include prepositional phrases and/or nouns My brother is very tall and handsome.
Adverb phrase Functions as an adverb; might include prepositional phrases and/or multiple adverbs Let’s go walking after dinner.
Ignacia walked wearily and unsteadily.