Clauses What is a Clause, Types, Uses with Example

What is a Clause, Types, Uses with Example

What is a Clause, Types, Uses with Example

What is a Clause, Types, Uses with Example

What is a Clause, Types, Uses with Example. A clause is comprised of a group of words that include a subject and a finite verb. It contains only one subject and one verb. The subject of a clause can be mentioned or hidden, but the verb must be apparent and distinguishable.

clause is “a group of words containing a subject and predicate and functioning as a member of a complex or compound sentence.” – Merriam-Webster


  • I graduated last year. (One clause sentence)
  • When I came here, I saw him. (Two clause sentence)
  • When I came here, I saw him, and he greeted me. (Three clause sentence)

What is a Clause, Types, Uses with Example

Types of Clauses

  • Independent Clause
  • Dependent Clause
    • Adjective Clause
    • Noun Clause
    • Adverbial Clause
  • Principal Clause
  • Coordinate Clause
  • Non-finite Clause

Independent Clause

It functions on its own to make a meaningful sentence and looks much like a regular sentence.

In a sentence two independent clauses can be connected by the coordinatorsand, but, so, or, nor, for*, yet*.


  • He is a wise man.
  • I like him.
  • Can you do it?
  • Do it please. (Subject you is hidden)
  • I read the whole story.
  • I want to buy a phone, but I don’t have enough money. (Two independent clauses)
  • He went to London and visited the Lords. (Subject of the second clause is ‘he,’ so “he visited the Lords” is an independent clause.)
  • Alex smiles whenever he sees her. (One independent clause)

Dependent Clause

It cannot function on its own because it leaves an idea or thought unfinished. It is also called a subordinate clause. These help the independent clauses complete the sentence. Alone, it cannot form a complete sentence.

The subordinators do the work of connecting the dependent clause to another clause to complete the sentence. In each of the dependent clauses, the first word is a subordinator. Subordinators include relative pronouns, subordinating conjunctions, and noun clause markers.


  • When I was dating Daina, I had an accident.
  • I know the man who stole the watch.
  • He bought a car which was too expensive.
  • I know that he cannot do it.
  • He does not know where he was born.
  • If you don’t eat, I won’t go.
  • He is a very talented player though he is out of form.


Dependent Clauses are divided into three types and they are –

1. Adjective Clause

It is a Dependent Clause that modifies a Noun. Basically, Adjective Clauses have similar qualities as Adjectives that are of modifying Nouns and hence the name, Adjective Clause. These are also called Relative Clauses and they usually sit right after the Nouns they modify.


    • I’m looking for the red book that went missing last week.
    • Finn is asking for the shoes which used to belong to his dad.
  • You there, who is sitting quietly at the corner, come here and lead the class out. 

2. Noun Clause

Dependent Clauses acting as Nouns in sentences are called Noun Clauses or Nominal Clauses. These often start with “how,” “that,” other WH-words (What, Who, Where, When, Why, Which, Whose and Whom), if, whether etc.


  • I like what I hear.
  • You need to express that it’s crossing a line for you.
  • He knows how things work around here.

3. Adverbial Clause

By definition, these are Dependent Clauses acting as Adverbs. It means that these clauses have the power to modify Verbs, Adjectives and other Adverbs.


  • Alice did the dishes till her legs gave up.
  • Tina ran to the point of panting vehemently.
  • I went through the book at a lightning speed.

Principal Clause

These have a Subject (Noun/Pronoun), Finite Verb and an Object and make full sentences that can stand alone or act as the main part of any Complex or Compound Sentence. Independent and Principal Clauses are functionally the same but named from different perspectives.


  • I know that boy.
  • He can jog every morning.
  • Robin fishes like a pro.

Coordinate Clause

Two or more similarly important Independent Clauses joined by Coordinating Conjunctions (and, or, but etc.) in terms of Compound Sentences are called Coordinate Clauses.


  • I like taking photos and he loves posing for them.
  • You prefer flying but she always wants to take a bus.
  • We are going to visit Terry or he is coming over.

Non-finite Clause

They contain a Participle or an Infinitive Verb that makes the Subject and Verb evident even though hidden. In terms of a Participle, the Participial Phrase takes place of the Subject or Object of the sentence.


  • He saw the boy (who was) staring out of the window.
  • She is the first person (who is) to enter the office.
  • Hearing the fireworks, the children jumped up.


What is a clause in a sentence? A clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb. We are here to help, read this guide to find out more about clauses, with examples of different types of clauses and handy teaching resources.

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What is a Clause? Children’s Definition

A clause is a feature of written English. Put simply, a clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb.

Clauses are what make up a sentence. They are groups of words that contain a subject and a verb. They can be the main clause, a coordinate clause or a subordinate clause. It’s important that children understand what a clause is because it’s one of the building blocks of written English.A clause example is:

The fast, red squirrel darted up a tree.

The subject of this clause is the fast, red squirrel, and the verb is ‘darted’. This can also be called a simple sentence.

There are three basic forms of the clause that can be used in a sentence, these include a main/ independent clause, a subordinate clause, the adjective clause, and the noun clause. While the independent clause could be used by itself as a complete sentence, the subordinate clause could not. For it to be correct, it would need to be paired with another clause: ‘When the man broke into the house, the dog barked at him.’

A word is a small unit that has meaning, for example, ‘Car‘ can be embellished by adding small groups of words that allow meaning to be explained. For example:

The shiny, blue car

A clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb that is normally used to add more detail to the noun in a sentence. A subject is a noun or pronoun in the sentence, while the verb is the action. An example of this clause is:

The shiny, blue car raced around the track.

The subject of the clause here is the ‘shiny, blue car’ and the verb is ‘raced.’ This is also known as a simple sentence.

What Are The Different Types of Clauses?

1. What is the main clause?

The main clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb and can form a complete sentence on its own. Main clauses are also often referred to as independent clauses as they don’t need any additional information to make sense. They can stand alone perfectly fine without the support of another clause. They express a complete thought.

Sentences can consist of two main clauses or a main clause and another type of clause. When there is only one main clause and another different type of clause, the second clause depends on the main clause to make sense.

Examples of main clauses include:

  • The cat mewed.
  • His car broke down at the station.
  • The girl laughed loudly.

2. What are subordinate clauses?

Unlike main clauses, subordinate clauses need a little help to make sense and they are also often referred to as dependent clauses.A subordinate clause is a clause that can’t stand alone as a complete sentence, even though it contains a subject and a verb. It doesn’t contain a complete thought as the main clause does. It has to be linked to the main clause, using a subordinating conjunction.

Examples of Subordinate clauses include:

  • Sitting happily, the chicken laid eggs.
  • The chicken, who was busy laying eggs, sat happily.
  • Looking over the hill, she sighed wistfully.
  • She sighed wistfully, looking over the hill.
  • The girl, who was looking over the hill, sighed wistfully.

‘Sitting happily’ is a subordinate clause because it’s not a complete thought. It needs the main clause, ‘the chicken laid eggs’, to make any sense to the reader. Because of this, a subordinate clause is known as a type of dependent clause.

3. What are coordinate clauses?

A coordinate clause is made when you connect two independent clauses that are of equal importance. These clauses are connected by coordinating conjunctions. Similar to subordinate clauses, coordinate clauses also combine two sentences, so it can be difficult to get the difference between them right. A good way to remember the difference between the two is to first think of the meaning of ‘coordinate’. To coordinate means to work together on equal standing. A coordinate clause contains two sentences with equal importance. So, just remember that in a coordinate clause, the two sentences are working together as a team to make one coordinate clause.

Examples of coordinate clauses include:

  • He wanted to go to the beach but it started raining.
  • You can feed the dog or you can wash the dishes.
  • They have homework to do yet they keep putting it off.

These two clauses are connected by a coordinating conjunction.

  • I like chocolate and I like sweets.

Both ‘I like chocolate’ and ‘I like sweets’ are main clauses that can make sense independently. They’ve been joined together by the coordinating conjunction, ‘and’, to make a coordinate clause.

4. What are adjective clauses?

An adjective clause begins with a relative pronoun (such as whom, whose, which, or that) or a relative adverb (when, where, or why). This type of clause includes a relative pronoun or adverb alongside a subject and/or a verb. Similar to a subordinate clause, an adjective clause is a dependent clause because it relies on the rest of the sentence to make sense.

A good tip for remembering how to spot an adjective clause is to watch out for certain words. The only words that can be used to introduce an adjective clause are relative pronouns(who, whose, whom, which or that) and subordinating conjunctions(when and where).

Examples of adjective clauses include:

  • The girl who has short hair is laughing.
  • Toby whose dad is a vet life next door.
  • The book which has the dragon on the cover is my favorite.
  • The stray cat that I pet sometimes is friendly.
  • Those people whose names are on the list will go camping.

Similar to a subordinate clause, an adjective clause is a dependent clause because it relies on the rest of the sentence to make sense. The phrase ‘whose names are on the list isn’t a complete thought, so it wouldn’t make sense all on its own.

5. What are noun clauses?

A noun clause is any clause that works in the same way as a noun. In other words, you could replace the clause with a noun, and it would still make sense. Noun clauses act in the same way as a noun or pronouns. It contains a subject and a verb, but not a complete thought, so it can’t stand as its own sentence. A noun clause starts with a pronoun or subordinating conjunction.

Examples of noun clauses include:

  • Do you know what you’re going to wear?
  • Do you know what dress to wear?
  • Do you know where the café is?
  • The café where I work is just over there.

6. What are adverb clauses?

An adverb clause is a dependent clause that doesn’t make sense on its own. It relies on another, independent clause to make sense. This is why they’re sometimes called dependent adverb clauses too. An adverb clause offers a description and modifies the sentence, similar to how an adverb does. It contains a subject and a verb, but it doesn’t express a complete thought.

Examples of adverb clauses include:

  • She walked slowly.
  • She walked like an old lady.
  • She walked as if she were heading to the gallows.

What Are Clause Examples?

  • During the day, Dracula slept in a coffin – The subject of this clause is ‘Dracula’. The verb is ‘slept’. ‘During the day is a phrase because there’s no verb.
  • When the Moon shone, he lurked in the shadows. – The subject of the first clause is ‘the Moon’. The verb is ‘shone’. The subject of the second clause is ‘he’. The verb is ‘lurked’.
  • He stalked a pretty milkmaid, who lived in the neighboring village. – Here, the subject of the first clause is ‘he’, the verb is ‘stalked’ and the subject of the second clause is who’.

How Do You Identify a Clause In a Sentence?

There are many simple ways that you can identify different types of clauses in a sentence through its structure and choice of nouns, adjectives, and connectives. Read this simple breakdown of how to identify a clause.

  • Noun clause: To identify whether a dependent clause is a noun clause, see if you can replace the clause with a pronoun (he/she/it/them) or noun.
  • Adjective clause/relative clause: An adjective clause takes the place of an adjective in a clause or phrase. It acts just like an adjective: it describes a noun or pronoun. It’s also known as a relative clause.
  • Adverb clause: An adverb clause is a dependent clause that doesn’t make sense on its own. It relies on another, independent clause to make sense. This is why they’re sometimes called dependent adverb clauses, too. You can spot an adverb clause as it answers the question of how, when, where, and why something happened. It gives an explanation for the independent clause and provides more detail and information.

When Are Children Taught about Clauses?

KS1: Learning about clauses in KS1

From the start of primary school, children learn to write sentences with 2 clauses in them during their English and writing lessons.

Year 1 – children will write sentences with 2 clauses joined by the word ‘and’.

Year 2 – children learn about subordinate clauses and coordinate clauses. They’ll use main clauses and subordinate clauses to make complex sentences using ‘if’, ‘that’, or ‘because.’

KS2: Learning about clauses in KS2

Year 3 to Year 6 – children will further develop their understanding of clauses in writing simple, compound, and complex sentences and will learn more complicated connectives like ‘because’, ‘however’ etc.

In year 6, they need to be able to understand the following terms:

    • connective;
    • clause;
    • subordinate clause;
    • simple sentence;
    • main clause;
    • compound sentence;
    • complex sentence.

They may be tested on these in the KS2 SATs Grammar, punctuation, and spelling test at the end of year 6.

By the time pupils enter secondary school and KS3, they should have a clear understanding of each type of clause. They should be able to explain terms as well.

Teaching Clauses with ENGLISH LOVERS

There are different types of clauses that can make teaching this topic a multi-step process. As with most new topics, start with the simplest form of a clause (main clause) and then move on to the more complex types of clauses, such as embedded clauses and subordinate clauses.

Below are a few resources to give you inspiration on how you can use ENGLISH LOVERS to support your teaching of clauses.

1. Combining Words to Make Sentences Warm-up PowerPoint

This resource is the perfect starting point for teaching clauses. Designed for year 1 pupils, this PowerPoint breaks down simple sentences into individual components so that children can see how to build their own independent clauses. They will be taught that a sentence needs to have a verb and a noun for it to be the main clause.

2. Main Clause and Subordinate Clause Worksheets

Now this resource is a step up from the previous one. This worksheet is for UKS2 pupils and focuses on their ability to construct sentences by filling in the subordinate clause with no prompts. There are a few more activities in this pack that will help children write complex sentences.



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