What is a Clause?

Hi, and welcome to this video on clauses! When learning grammar or improving your writing skills, it’s important to understand all of the different elements that make up a sentence. One of these essential parts is the clause. Using clauses in sentences can help you to construct ideas that are clear and concise or complex and creative. Today, we’re going to discuss the different types of clauses and how best to use them. Let’s get started!

Clauses are made up of words or phrases that contain a subject and a verb., It’s important to realize that a clause is not the same thing as a phrase, because phrases do not have a subject and a verb. For example, on the table, this red shirt, and because of the cold are all phrases. “Shelby jogs after class” is a clause: notice the subject, Shelby, and the verb, jogs.

Now that we know what a clause is, let’s talk about the different types.

Independent Clauses

An independent clause, much like our example “Shelby jogs after class,” is a clause that is a complete sentence. Remember, long or short, a complete sentence is one that can stand alone and contains a subject and a verb. That means that independent clauses can stand alone or be combined with another sentence. Let’s look at an example.

I like to drive with the windows down.

This sentence is an independent clause because it is a complete sentence that stands alone and contains both a subject, I, and a verb, like. How about this one?

If I finish work before 7, I will come to the party.

Here, the independent clause in the sentence is at the end. “I will come to the party” can stand alone as a complete sentence, since it has a subject, I, and verb, will come.

Unlike an independent clause, dependent clauses cannot stand alone. They are sentence fragments that need to be combined with an independent clause to be grammatically correct. For instance, let’s look at this last example again.

If I finish work before 7, I will come to the party.

We already know that everything after the comma is an independent clause, but what about the first half of the sentence? “If I finish work before 7” is not a complete sentence. However, when we combine it with an independent clause, we now have a complete sentence.

Let’s look at another type of clause: the noun clause.

Noun Clauses

A noun clause is a group of words that acts as one noun. Noun clauses are always dependent clauses and start with words like how, that, or wh- words like what, who, which, when, where, and why.

For example:

She can’t remember when she fell asleep.

In this sentence, the noun clause is “when she fell asleep,” because not only does it start with the word when, but the phrase “when she went to sleep” is also a longer way of describing bedtime, which is a noun. A trick to test if a clause is acting as a noun is to replace the clause with a pronoun. If the sentence still flows with the pronoun in place, then we know the phrase or clause is acting as a noun. Let’s try another example.

He didn’t know what time it was.

In this sentence, we can see the noun clause is “what time it was.” The clause starts with one of the identifier words, what, and the phrase also describes the time, but with just a few more words. What if we replaced the phrase with the pronoun, it?

“He didn’t know it” is still a complete sentence, so we know that the phrase “what time it was” is in fact acting as a noun.

Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses are groups of words that modify nouns and pronouns. They typically begin with who, whose, that, or which. The adjective clause usually comes after a noun in a sentence and must contain a subject and verb. Let’s look at an example:

The movie that we saw last week was very good.

Let’s identify the adjective clause here. Our first clue is the word that, which is one of the words that typically starts an adjective phrase. The phrase “that we saw last week” describes movie, which is a noun. It also contains a subject, we, and verb, saw, so we know “that we saw last week” is the adjective clause.

Adverb Clauses

Adverb clauses are groups of words that function as an adverb, which means they modify verbs, other adverbs, and adjectives. Adverb clauses describe when, where, why, how, how much, or under what condition something takes place. Here’s an example:

Because it’s late, I’m going to get an Uber home.

The adverb clause here is “because it’s late.” How do we know? Because this clause answers the question why this person took an Uber. Here’s another sentence:

Before you got home, I made sure to clean the house.

“Before you got home” is the adverb clause in this sentence because it answers the question of when something took place.


Now, before we go, let’s go over a few review questions to test your knowledge of clauses.

1. What clause is highlighted in this sentence?

My sister, the youngest of us all, never gets in trouble.

  1. Adjective Clause
  2. Noun Clause
  3. Adverb Clause
  4. Verb Clause

2. What clause is highlighted in this sentence?

What you learn from each other depends on your honesty with others.

  1. Adjective Clause
  2. Noun Clause
  3. Adverb Clause
  4. Dependent Clause

3. Which part of this sentence is an adjective clause?

The territory of Greenland, which is the largest island in the world, has a population of about 56,000 people.

  1. “about 56,000 people”
  2. “which is the largest island in the world”
  3. “The territory of Greenland”
  4. “has a population”

I hope this review of clauses was helpful! Thanks for watching, and happy studying!



by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: October 8, 2021