A clause, in traditional grammar, is a grouping of related words containing a subject and a predicate. In grammatical organization, it is one step below the sentence in rank and plays an important role in forming part of complex and compound sentences. A clause is also the smallest grammatical unit that expresses a complete proposition.
So, let’s break down exactly what a clause is. It is a “grouping of words containing a subject and predicate.” Well, what is that?
A subject is the noun or pronoun that indicates what a sentence is about. A predicate is the verb and its related parts in a sentence that express what is said about the subject. Together, these two things form clauses. For example,
- I left the room.
In this sentence, “I” is the subject. It is what the sentence is about. “Left the room” is the predicate of this sentence because it contains the verb “left” that is expressing the action of the subject “I.” You will also notice that “left the room” contains a direct object. Can predicates do this? The answer is yes because predicates are the verb and its related parts. This means that direct objects, indirect objects, complements, or adverbial modifiers can all be included in what is called the predicate.
Let’s look at another example:
- My sister was reading the book.
In this sentence, the subject is “my sister.” The sentence is about her. “Reading the book” is the predicate because it is expressing what she is doing.
Because of this subject-verb relationship, clauses differ from other grammatical units like phrases. Phrases don’t have subjects, don’t have verbs, or don’t have both. Consider the following,
- Over the river
- Through the woods
- Eating a candy bar
None of these phrases have both a subject and verb.
There are also a few different kinds of clauses. For example there are,
- Independent clause (also called main clause)
- Dependent clause (also called subordinate clause)
- Restrictive clause (also called essential clause)
- Nonrestrictive clause (also called nonessential clause)
- Relative clause