Clauses: Meaning, Types and Examples

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Clauses are amongst the basic topics of English grammar that are generally covered at the secondary school level. You might remember studying Sentences, Phrases, and Clauses in your English grammar workbook and getting confused about their intricacies. During the school years, the formation of sentences is the very first and basic step towards learning English grammar before we get into the complexities of parts of speech, conjunctions, and punctuations. This blog brings you a comprehensive guide on what clauses are as well as their key types and examples. 

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What is a Clause?

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A clause is mainly a group of words that contain a subject as well as a finite verb. A sentence can be fully called a clause only when it has a single subject and a single verb. It might not include the subject at times, but the verb has to be clear and distinguished.

Examples [Clauses are underlined]:

  1. I completed my graduation last year.
  2. When he came here, he ate apples.
  3. When I came here, he was playing and then he went back home.

Check Out: 50 Difficult Words With Meanings

Types of Clauses

As discussed every clause has a subject and verb, but there are some other characteristics that can help you distinguish its types. To begin with, these are of basically four types:

  1. Independent or Main
  2. Dependent or Subordinate
  3. Relative or Adjective
  4. Noun Clause
  5. Adverbial Clause
  6. Conditional Clause

We will be discussing each of the types separately along with their examples in the following section.

Independent/Main Clause

An independent clause is a complete sentence on its own and does not require anything else to make it a full-fledged sentence. The basic form of the Main/independent clause is:

Subject + Verb = Complete Sentence

Let us consider some examples to understand it better:

  1. These boys are always sleeping. (The subject is ‘boys’ whereas the verb is ‘sleeping’.)
  2. My sister loves cold drinks. (The subject is ‘sister’ and the verb is ‘loves’.)
  3. I read the book. (The ‘I’ represents the subject whereas the verb is ‘read’.)

Recommended Read: 20 Homonyms With Examples

Dependent/Subordinate Clause

A dependent/subordinate clause is the exact opposite of the independent clause. It is actually not a complete sentence and thus generally does not make any sense. But when put together with an independent one, it helps it to form a complete sentence.

The task of joining a dependent clause to an independent clause or any other of its type is done by a subordinator which makes the sentence complete. A subordinator might be a conjunction, relative pronoun or noun clause marker.

Subordinator + Subject + Verb = Incomplete Sentence

Now, let us take a look at some examples:

  1. Whenever the boys sleep. (‘whenever’ is the subordinator, ‘boys’ correspond to the subject and ‘sleep’ is the verb.)
  2. Because my sister loves cold drinks. (‘because’ is the subordinating conjunction, ‘sister’ represents the subject and ‘loves’ is the verb)
  3. If you don’t go (‘if’ is the subordinator, ‘you’ represents the subject and ‘go’ is the verb)

Thus, through the above examples, you can see how it is quite difficult for a dependent type alone to make any sense. It has to be joined to an independent one by a punctuation to make complete sense. Hence, the form of a complete sentence stands to be:

Subordinate Clause + Punctuation + Main Clause = Complete Sentence


Main Clause + Subordinate Clause = Complete Sentence


  1. Whenever the boys sleep, their teacher scolds them.
  2. I bought two bottles of cola because my sister loves cold drinks.
  3. If you don’t go, I will get angry.

Must Read: 50 Difficult Antonyms

Relative Clause

A relative clause will always begin with either a relative pronoun such as ‘who’, ‘whom’, ‘whose’, ‘which’, ‘that’ or a relative adverb such as ‘when’, ‘why’ or ‘where’. You must also remember that a relative alone does not make any sense or a complete sentence, it also has to be attached to a main clause just like a dependent one.

Relative Pronoun or Adverb + Subject + Verb = Incomplete Sentence


Relative Pronoun or Adverb as subject + Verb = Incomplete Sentence


  1. Whom the teacher hit with a chalk (‘whom’ is the relative pronoun, ‘teacher’ is the subject and ‘hit’ is the verb )
  2. Where he went joyfully (‘where’ is the relative pronoun, ‘he’ is the subject and ‘went’ is the verb)

Relative Clause + Main Clause = Complete Sentence


  1. The talkative boys whom the teacher hit with a chalk soon learned to behave properly in class.
  2. I know about the place where he went joyfully.

Restrictive Relative Clause

A restrictive clause gives essential information about a noun that comes before it. A restrictive clause can be introduced by that, which, whose, who or whom. You should not place a comma in front of a restrictive relative clause: 

For example: 

  1. She held out the hand that was hurt.
  2. She held out the hand which was hurt. 

(She held out the hand = Main Clause)

( That was hurt, which was hurt = Restrictive Relative Clause)

Non-Restrictive Relative Clause

These clauses are normally introduced by which, whom, who or whose but never by that. You should place a comma in front of them:

For Instance: 

  1. She held out her hand, which Rob shook
    (She held out her hand = Main Clause
    (which Rob shook = Non-Restrictive Clause)

Related Read: 50 Difficult Phrases With Meanings

Noun Clause

When a sentence starts functioning as a noun, it is known as a noun clause. Take a look at the following example,

Let me know the ingredients of the stew. (‘Ingredients’ is the noun.)
When this noun is replaced with a clause, it becomes a noun clause.
Let me know all that you have added to the stew.

Adverbial Clause

An adverbial clause is a group of words that plays the role of an adverb. 

For example:

  1. He lost his double chin after he gave up chocolate 
    (The clause acts as an adverb. It could be replaced with an adverb, eg: Recently) 
  1. I am not afraid of the pen, the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth where I please
    (This clause could be replaced with an adverb, eg: There) 

Conditional Clause

A condition clause is one that usually begins with if or unless and describes something that is possible. 

For Instance: 

  1. If it looks like rain a simple shelter can be made out of a plastic sheet. 
    (If it looks like rain = Conditional Clause)
    (a simple shelter can be made out of a plastic sheet = Main Clause)
  2. I’ll be home tomorrow unless the plane’s delayed for hours.
    (I’ll be home tomorrow = Main Clause)
    (unless the plane’s delayed for hours = Conditional Clause)

Examples of Phrases and Clauses

Phrases and clauses are groups of words that act as a unit and perform a single function within a sentence. A phrase is a group of words that may have a partial subject or verb but not both, or it may have either a subject or a verb. A clause, however, by definition a group of words that has a subject and a verb. A sentence can have any number of clauses and phrases combined together. See the examples below: 

Phrases Clauses
Needing help Sarah smiled 
With a green T-shirt She laughs at shy people
Best friend  Because he gave her a puppy
On the horizon When the saints go marching in
After the devastation  I waited for him
Because of her glittering smile He wants to become an engineer 

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Interactive Questions and Answers

1. Which describes a Clause?
(A) A clause is the same as a phrase.
(B) A clause is a group of words that functions as one part of speech and that includes a subject and a verb.
(C) A clause is half a sentence. 

Ans: B

2. Select the example of an Independent Clause.
(A) Even though he likes jam, he hates marmalade. 
(B) Even though he likes jam, he hates marmalade. 

Ans: A

3. Select the example of a dependent Clause.
(A) The wax is melting because it’s too hot. 
(B) The wax is melting because it’s too hot. 

Ans: B

4. Select the example with a Noun clause.
(A) Whoever designed this maze is a genius. 
(B) The quality of this maze is quite astounding. 

Ans: A

5. Select the example of an adjective clause. 
(A) Snowflakes the size of postage stamps fell gracefully from the clouds. 
(B) Snowflakes the size of which I’ve never seen before filled the air. 

Ans: B

6. Select the example of an adverbial clause.
(A) My alarm always wakes me up just as I am about to succeed in my dream. 
(B) My alarm clock, which was a present from my daughter, always wakes me up at the wrong time. 

Ans: A

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What is a Clause?

A clause is mainly a group of words that contain a subject as well as a finite verb. A sentence can be fully called a clause only when it has a single subject and a single verb.

How many types of clauses are there?

Independent or Main
Dependent or Subordinate
Relative or Adjective
Noun Clause
Adverbial Clause
Conditional Clause

Which is the best book to prepare for English competitive exams?

Objective General English by S.P. Bakshi
English Grammar and Composition by SC Gupta
Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis

Hence, we hope that this blog has helped you learn about clauses and their types. If you are preparing for a competitive exam like IELTS, GMAT, GRE, SAT, etc., book an online demo session with our experts at Leverage Edu and we will guide you throughout the preparation process along with equipping you with the necessary exam day tips to help you clear your test with high scores.

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