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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.