Grammar-QuizzesClausesClause Structure › A Clause

A Clause (Clause Structure)

Examine the parts that make up a clause

 

We are going to take a six-week trip to Europe because we want to see its beautiful cities.
 

 

 
DESCRIPTION

A phrase is a word group that:

  • includes a "head", so called because of (1) its primary (initial) position in the phrase or (2) its primary role (meaning) in the phrase.
  • does not express a complete thought.
  • does not meet the requirements of being a grammatical sentence.  
     
PHRASE TYPE EXAMPLE EXAMPLE

Noun Phrase (NP)

a six-week trip to Europe [trip = head of NP]    

its beautiful cities (Det + Adj + N)

Determinative Phrase (DP)

so few cities  [few = head of DP]    

practically all cities

not very many cities

approximately two cities

at least five cities

just enough time

Verb Phrase (VP)

are¹ going² to take  [are / verb = head of VP]    

are going to take a six-week trip to Europe 

wants to see (V + Inf) [wants = head of VP]    

wants to see its beautiful cities (V + Nonfinite Infin Cls)

Adjective Phrase (AdjP) 

six-week long  (Det-N + Adj) [long = head of AdjP]    

southern European  (Modifier + Adj)

very beautiful  (Degree Adv + Adj)

rather expensive  (Degree Adv + Adj)

Adverb Phrase (AdvP)

much too quickly  (Degree Adv + Adv) [quickly = head of AdvjP] 

much more slowly (Adv + Adv)

fairly evenly  ( Adv + Adv)

very slowly ( Adv + Adv)

similarly to the way we traveled before (Adv + PP)

differently than the way we remembered (Adv + PP)

favorably of the places they saw (Adv + PP)

quite well  (Adv + Adv)

 

Prepositional Phrase (PP)

 

COMPLEMENT (is required by the subject and predicate)

They left in the summer.  (P+ NP) [in = head of PP] 

She spoke to me. (P + Prn)

 

ADJUNCT (is not required by the subject and predicate)

They took a trip in the summer. (P+ NP)

We went there because we want to see its beautiful cities. (P + Cls)

 

Lexical Categories: N – Noun; V – Verb; Aux – Auxiliary; Adj – Adjective; Adv – Adverb; P –Preposition; Det –Determiner.

Phrasal Categories: NP – Noun Phrase; VP – Verb Phrase; AdjP – Adjective Phrase; AdvP – Adverb Phrase; PP – Prepositional Phrase; DP – Determinative Phrase.

Clausal Categories: Cls – clause; F – finite clause; NF – nonfinite clause (Ger – gerund; Inf – infinitive; PPart – past participle).

Functions: Subj – subject; Pred – predicate/predicator; Compcomplement: elements required by an expression to complete its meaning (DO – direct object; IO – indirect object);  Adjunctadjunct: elements not required by an expression to complete its meaning (Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator); Suplsupplement: a clause or phrase added onto a clause that is not closely related to the central thought or structure of the main clause.

 

¹ In linguistic description, the primary verb is the verb marked for person or tense, which in this case is the auxiliary verb. [ARE going].  The secondary verb [going] complements the primary verb. See Primary v. Secondary Verbs.

² In traditional grammar description, the main verb is the lexical verb, the verb with the dictionary meaning (not the auxiliary), [are GOING]. The combination of  the auxiliaries and the lexical verb is a verb group.  See Verb Group for "head" of a verb group.

 

 

 

 

 

A Clause

Two Basic Categories

 

 

 
DESCRIPTION

A nonfinite clause expresses meaning as a verb or as a verb with complements but is limited.  (See Functions of Finite vs. Nonfinite Clauses.)

It includes:

  • noun phrases—rarely as the agent (person or thing that takes action) but may include an experiencer (person or thing that experiences change) or a patient (person or thing affected by the action).
  • a secondary verb formnot marked (inflected) for tense, number or person; does not convey tense, aspect or mood. (See Secondary Verbs.)
  • an incomplete thought. The clause cannot stand on its own and needs attachment to an independent clause to make sense.
     
CLAUSE TYPE EXAMPLES EXAMPLES

Nonfinite Clause  (NF / NF Cls)

 

to take  — "infinitive"  / "infinitival nonfinite clause"

taking  — "gerund" / "gerundial nonfinite clause"

excited — "past participle" / past participial nonfinite clause"

to take a trip — Inf NF

taking a trip — Ger NF

located in Paris  — past participial NF

 

our taking a six-week long trip to Europe — Ger NF (with a subject expressed as our)

for us to take a six-week long trip to Europe — Inf NF (with a subject expressed as for us)

having been to Paris before  — Ger NF (w/ an earlier time frame expressed as having + past participle)

to have taken a trip before — Inf NF (w/ an earlier time frame expressed as to have + past participle)

Secondary Verb refers to the verb forms included in nonfinites. Nonfinite Clause refers to the structure which may consist of just the secondary verb or its complements as well.

-al is a suffix for adjectives: infinitival, gerundial, participial, adjectival  Either the noun form or the adjective form can be used in grammar descriptions.

 

 

 

 
DESCRIPTION

A finite clause is one or more noun phrases together with a predicator (a verb, an action) that combine to express a complete thought.  It can stand alone as a sentence.

It includes:

  • noun phrases—an agent (person or thing that takes action), an experiencer (person or thing that experiences change) or a patient (person or thing affected by the action)
  • a predicatorthat expresses action, process or state and that can be inflected (marked) for tense, person and sometimes number: tense (walk, walked), person (walk, walks; am, is are), number (was were, is, are). (See Primary Verbs.)
  • a complete thought—the subject and the predicate combine with other elements to form a complete thought. See topic and controlling idea.
      
CLAUSE TYPE EXAMPLE EXAMPLE

Finite (Cls / F Cls)

 

Leave(In an imperative, the subject is understood.)  ([NP] + VP)

We are leaving. (NP + VP)

We are taking a trip(NP + VP + NP)

We are going to take a trip. (NP + VP + NF Cls)

We are going to take a six-week long trip to Europe.

We are going to take a six-week long trip to Europe because we want to see its beautiful cities. (NP + VP + NF Cls + PP)

      

We are travelers. (state)

We have our tickets. (state)

We know the dates. (state)

We age. (process)

We wait in lines. (process)

We travel. (action)

We carry our baggage. (action)

 

Gerund – also called a Gerund-Participle as the two forms have been merged. 

Gerund or Gerundial (Adj), Infinitive or Infinitival (Adj), Participle or Participial (Adj).

Gerund Phrase / Infinitive Phrase — These are no longer analyzed as phrases. The term "phrase" is reserved for the examples at the top of this page.

w/ – with; w/o – without

Also see Finite/Nonfinite | Gerunds with Subjects | Infinitives with Subjects | Expressing Earlier Time with Nonfinites.

(Huddleston 14 §1) (Payne Ch 14.2-3)

 

 

 

 

 

A Clause

Fragment vs. Clause

luggage
 

A Fragment vs. a Clause

FRAGMENT

A fragment is a grouping of words that together do not express a complete thought or do not meet the requirements of being a grammatical sentence.

In fact, nearly eighty-six million annually. 

All those amazing things to see! 

How about your visa? 

Having shoes, which are comfortable.

And so do I. 

Over there.

A CLAUSE

A clause includes at least a subject and a predicate . It expresses a complete thought.

Each year, millions of people travel to the U.S.

There are so many amazing things to see!.

What are you going to do about your visa? / Is your visa up to date?

It is important to have a good pair of comfortable walking shoes.

I have some good shoes too. 

The ticket office is over there.  

 

See  Complete Thought

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Clause Types

That cannot stand as a sentence

 

 

 

Coordinated and Subordinated Structures

COORDINATE OR SUBORDINATE CLAUSE

A clause that begins with a coordinator (and, but, or) is a coordinate of the main clause. A clause that begins with a subordinator (that) is a dependent of the main clause. A clause that begins with a relative pronoun (that, which, who, whom, whose, when, etc.) is a dependent of (a modifier to) a noun .

COORDINATE 1 CLAUSE COORDINATE 2 CLAUSE
CLAUSE COORDINATOR + CLS

Istanbul is an amazing city to visit

Istanbul is an amazing city to visit .

and we are going there! 

¹And we are going there! (sentence)

andcoordinator addition

CLAUSE SUBORDINATOR + CLS

We know

that we must take a passport. 

thatsubordinator

Marseilles and Nice are cities

that are on the Mediterranean. 

thatrelative pronoun

We will sail to beautiful Malta,

which is rich with history.

whichrelative pronoun

We are travelers

who love a good adventure.

whorelative pronoun personal

We like to go to places

where the lifestyle is simple.

whererelative pronoun locative

This summer will be a time

when we can relax.

whererelative pronoun temporal

ADJUNCT PREPOSITION + CLAUSE

A "clause" that begins with before, after, because, while, though, etc. is actually a prepositional phrase with a clause as its complement. The preposition is called an adjunct preposition or connective preposition. The structure (prep + clause) is a dependent of the main clause and adds extra (nonessential) information.

MAIN CLAUSE ADJUNCT PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE
CLAUSE PREP + CLS

We are going to apply for visas

before we leave on our trip. 

beforeadjunct prep temporal

   

We are going to take raincoats

though we don't know if we will need them.

thoughadjunct prep concession

We buy things with Euros

unless we can use a credit card. 

unlessadjunct prep condition

We take electrical outlet adapters with us

whenever we travel overseas. 

wheneveradjunct prep temporal

It is important to have a good pair of walking shoes

as long as there is room in the suitcase. 

as long asadjunct prep condition

We carry an umbrella

if rain is expected.

ifadjunct prep condition

We pack lots of sunscreen

because we don't want to get burned. 

becauseadjunct prep reason

 

if — heads an adjunct prepositional phrase that takes a clause (and a few other word forms) as its complement. The condition "clause" is actually a prepositional phrase (PP). Call me if you are ready. Call me if necessary. I rarely, if ever, call them.

¹And, but, or or with a capital letter can begin a clause and be a sentence.

See Grammar Notes for linguistic terms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A  Sentence

Spoken vs. Written

 

 

 

Understood vs. Explicit

UNDERSTOOD THOUGHT

Much of what we have to say in speech can be understood from the context of the situation. Consequently, we shorten our comments omitting the parts we think the other person can see or know.

Wonderful!  Oh!  Ah!  Wow!  Oh no!  Ha!

An exclamation is treated as a sentence with end punctuation even though it does not stand alone as a complete idea. 

Leave!   Stop!    Go!   Halt! 

An imperative sentence is treated as a sentence with end punctuation. It has no subject, but it is complete and is understood through the context of the situation. 

The more taxes, the more complaining.   The more the merrier.

Expressions are not punctuated like most sentences. 

Yes.  No.

Affirmative and negative answers, such as yes and no may stand alone and be followed by a period or exclamation mark.

EXPLICIT – CLEARLY STATED

In writing, we need to fully express an idea because we cannot expect the reader to see or know the context of the idea.

(It is) wonderful!   It must be understood from the context of the situation.

"It is" (thing that both listener and speaker know) is understood. Optionally include the subject and predicate.

(You) leave!

"You" is understood. Optionally include the subject.

The more taxes (we have) , the more complaining (we do).

Understood:  the verbs / Optionally include the verbs. The more, the more

Yes, that is correct.

The question is understood. Optionally restate the question in the response.

 

explicit (Adj) – fully and clearly expressed or demonstrated

understood (Adj) – not fully expressed and requiring context

Also see Discourse Markers. and Interjections.

(Swan 514)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Errors and Solutions

NOT A SENTENCE

We had a wonderful time there. In fact, great! 

(This is a fragment. It does not have a  subject or a predicate.)

 He crashed his car.  Because he was texting and not paying attention. 

(Because is the head of an adjunct prepositional phrase, which cannot stand by itself as a sentence.)

Put the book there.  On my desk. 

(This is a fragment. It does not have a  subject or a predicate.)

The thing that amazed me. 

(This is a fragment. It does not have a  subject or a predicate.)

The city had fewer than a million people before became a world trading center.

(The clause that complements before does not have a  subject.)  

Keep bedrooms free of clutter where bedbugs can hide and seal wall cracks and crevices.

(The subject is unclear in second clause. Are these crafty little bugs?)

pop questionPop-Q – "In fact" 

A  SENTENCE

We had a wonderful time there; in fact, it was great! 

We had a wonderful time there. In fact, it was great!

We had a wonderful, in fact, a great time there.

(Add a subject, verb and punctuation.)  See Examples

He crashed his car because he was texting and not paying attention.

Because he was texting and not paying attention, he crashed his car. (Separate the adjunct prep phrase with a comma when it is placed before the main clause.)

Put the book there, on my desk.

(Place a comma before the prepositional phrase; it is a comment that restates there.) 

The thing that amazed me was the architecture.  

(The main clause requires a subject and a predicate.)

The city had fewer than a million people before it became a world trading center. (Add a subject to the clause in the adjunct prepositional phrase.) 

Keep bedrooms free of clutter where bedbugs can hide.   Seal wall cracks and crevices.

(The best solution is to separate the clause into its own sentence.)

 

A written sentence needs a subject and a verb to be grammatical. (A sentence may be composed of one or more clauses.) A spoken sentence needs a complete thought and may rely more heavily on contextual information.  See Complete Thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grammar Notes(Advanced)

Traditional Grammar and Linguistic Description

 

 

Traditional / ESL and Linguistic Descriptions

TRADITIONAL / ESL GRAMMAR
PHRASE

A phrase is a group of words that together have a particular meaning, but do not express a complete thought or do not meet the requirements of being a grammatical sentence. Phrases are the smaller parts that make a clause. (Azar  12-3, 13-11, 14-1, 18-1)

adverb phrase – Before falling asleep, she sucks her thumb.
gerund phrase – Running around the room is tiring.
infinitive phrase – To read her a story is helpful.
noun clause phrase – [What she wants] is unimportant.
participial phrase – The girl running around the room was noisy.
past participle phrase – The girl tired of crying fell asleep. 
possessive phrase – Her crying attracted attention.
prepositional phrase – The girl ran to everyone in the room.

DEPENDENT CLAUSE

"A dependent clause is not a complete sentence."  (Azar 242)

but the girl cried   
where the girl is sitting 
because the girl is tired 
although the girl is crying
if the girl sleeps  

 

 

(See participial phrase and infinitive phrase above.)

 

INDEPENDENT CLAUSE

An independent  clause includes at least a subject and a verb. It expresses a complete thought, and it can stand alone as a subject.

Leave.  (In an imperative, the subject is understood.) 

We are leaving.

We are taking a trip. 

We are going to take a trip.

We are going to take a six-week long trip to Europe.

We are going to take a six-week long trip to Europe because we want to see its beautiful cities.

LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION
PHRASE

Phrasal Categories "Constituents containing more than one word (more specifically, containing a central and most important word augmented by appropriate accompanying words that elaborate its contribution to the sentence) are called phrases, and are assigned to phrasal categories." (Huddleston 1 §4.2.2)

The girl ran over very quickly to almost every person in the extremely noisy room.

NP –noun phrase;  The girl [determiner + noun]
VP – verb phrase;  ran over [verb + prep]
PP – prepositional phrase; in the room [prep + det + noun]
AdvP – adverb phrase; very quickly [adv + adv]
AdjP – adjective phrase;  extremely noisy  [adv + adj]
DetP – determinative phrase; almost every  [adv + det]
  

ADJUNCT

Adjuncts are modifiers in a clause. They are not essential to completing the meaning of a clause. We can understand the clause without it. They include semantic categories such as time, duration, frequency, degree, purpose, reason, result, concession, condition, and so on. (Huddleston 8 §1-20)

but the girl cried     (coordinative clause)
where the girl is sitting   (locative preposition – PP)
because the girl is tired   (cause-effect preposition– PP)
although the girl is crying  (concession preposition– PP)
if the girl sleeps   (conditional preposition– PP)

CLAUSE (NONFINITE)

A nonfinite clause includes a secondary.  A secondary (nonfinite) verb is one of three verb form types: infinitival, gerund-participle (-ing) or past participle (-ed).   Clauses whose verbs are secondary are called nonfinite clauses. (Huddleston 14 §1-8)

Gerund-participle clause  
running around the room
crying on the floor

past participle clause
tired of crying

Infinitival clause  
to leave the room now ("to" form with infinitival)
take her home  (plain form)

CLAUSE  (FINITE)

A  finite clause includes a primary verb. A primary (finite) verb can be marked by tense and number. In English, these include the past and the present tense verb forms. All other tenses are formed with one or more verb types: auxiliaries, modals and participles. Clauses whose verbs are primary are called finite clauses. (Huddleston 3 §1.80)

The child enjoys running around the room.
The child crying in the middle of the floor was tired.
The child tired of crying got up and left.

Infinitival clause  
The child wants to leave the party now. ("to" form)
Her mother helped take her home.  (plain form)
 

 

Lexical Categories: N – Noun; V – Verb; Aux – Auxiliary; Adj – Adjective; Adv – Adverb; P –Preposition; Det –Determiner.

Phrasal Categories: NP – Noun Phrase; VP – Verb Phrase; AdjP – Adjective Phrase; AdvP – Adverb Phrase; PP – Prepositional Phrase; DP – Determinative Phrase.

Clausal Categories: Cls – clause; F – finite clause; NF – nonfinite clause (Ger – gerund; Inf – infinitive; PPart – past participle).

Functions: Subj – subject; Pred – predicate/predicator; Compcomplement: elements required by an expression to complete its meaning (DO – direct object; IO – indirect object);  Adjunctadjunct: elements not required by an expression to complete its meaning (Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator); Suplsupplement: a clause or phrase added onto a clause that is not closely related to the central thought or structure of the main clause.

 

 

Resources

  • Azar, Betty Schrampfer, and Stacy A. Hagen. Understanding and Using English Grammar. White Plains, New York: Pearson Longman, 2009. Print.
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2002. Print.
  • Payne, Thomas Edward. "The forms of dependent clauses – the scale of grammatical dependency." Understanding English Grammar: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2011. Print.
  • Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Hiking

hikers
 

Decide whether the words are a phrase or a clause.

  1. Select the response from the list that best describes the example. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

1.
 


Whenever
2.
 

3.


For example
4.


For example
5.

6.

7.


What
8.

9.

10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Istanbul

Istanbul
 

Read for Errors

Istanbul is an amazing city. Because of its rich history and breath-taking location. The city of Istanbul has twenty-seven districts. Which are very different in character. Throughout its long history. It has been a cultural melting pot. 

Istanbul has diverse architectural styles. Because it has had diverse people. Greek, Roman and Byzantine structures.  All stand in harmony in the city of Istanbul. Hagia Sophia is very famous. As it was once the world's largest cathedral. Construction of the Walls of Constantinople began under Constantine the Great. But had to be enlarged as the city grew.

Because Istanbul is located on a Peninsula.  It is surrounded by water. You will see fishing boats and seafood markets. If you visit the port. Istanbul has two international airports. Atatürk International Airport on the European side. Sabiha Gökçen International Airport on the Asian side. The city has had huge growth recently. For example, about one million people in 1901 and now 13 million.

The city was and still is ideally situated. The crossroads to the great trade centers of Europe. Though occasionally it gets cold in the winter. The mild climate makes it an ideal place to live.

melting pot (expression) – mixing of cultures

architectural – building design styles

diverse – varying greatly, different

ideally – perfectly

is situated – is located; is placed, is built

 

 

 

 

Edit and correct the sentence if it needs correcting.

  1. Edit the sentences so that they form one complete sentence.
  2. Compare your response by clicking the "check" button.

 

11.
Istanbul is an amazing city.  Because of its rich history and breath-taking location.



Because of  
12.
The city of Istanbul has twenty-seven districts. Which are very different in character.



Which  
13.
Throughout its long history.  It has been a cultural melting pot. 



Throughout
14.
Istanbul has diverse architectural styles. Because it has had diverse people.  



Because
15.
Greek, Roman and Byzantine structures.  All stand in harmony in the city of Istanbul.



Colons
16.
Hagia Sophia is very famous. As it was once the world's largest cathedral.



As
17.
Construction of the Walls of Constantinople began under Constantine the Great. But had to be enlarged as the city grew.



But
18.
Because Istanbul is located on a Peninsula.  It is surrounded by water.



Because
19.
You will see fishing boats and seafood markets. If you visit the port.  



Conditionals
20.
Istanbul has two international airports.   Atatürk International Airport on the European side. Sabiha Gökçen International Airport on the Asian side.



Punctuation
21.
The city has had huge growth recently. For example, about one million people in 1901 and now 13 million.



Example Words
22.
The city was and still is ideally situated. The crossroads to the great trade centers of Europe.

23.
Though occasionally it gets cold in the winter. The mild climate makes it an ideal place to live. 



Though