Types of Clauses in English

A Clause is a part of a sentence having its own subject and predicate. Clause Analysis is the complete course in mastering the art of breaking up simple or complex or compound sentences into their different components for better understanding.

It contains various rules for analyzing different kinds of clauses with several examples.

The exact nature of each clause should be figured out from the kind of function it serves in the sentence.

A complex sentence is made up of a main clause and a subordinate clause, which starts with a subordinator. The main clause is the one that can stand on its own. The subordinate clause depends upon the main clause and starts with a subordinator.

  • Simple (consisting of one clause)
  • Compound (consisting of two co-ordinate main clauses)
  • Complex (containing at least one subordinate clause)

Simple: I was reading the newspaper.

Compound: I read the newspaper, but nothing caught my interest.

Complex:

  • I was reading the newspaper that I subscribe to.
  • I was reading the newspaper while I was having breakfast.
  • I was reading the newspaper while having breakfast.

The structure of a complex sentence (main clause)

{——-Matrix clause——–}{————-Subordinate clause——————-}

I read in the newspaper that the president is facing further criticism.

Matrix clause = main clause minus subordinate clause.

The structure of a compound sentence

{——-Main clause——} C {——-main clause————-}

I read the newspaper, but nothing caught my interest.

C = Connector

Types of Clauses in English Grammar

There are different types of clauses in english grammar. Some of them are as follows:

Independent Clause

An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone as a sentence (i.e., it expresses a complete thought). An independent clause, like all clauses, has a subject and verb.

When there is no dependent clause in the same sentence and only independent clauses, the independent clause is a simple sentence.

For example:

  • I like coconut macaroons.

This is an independent clause and simple sentence.

  • I like coconut macaroons even though I dislike coconut.

There is an independent clause and a dependent clause in this sentence. This is a complex sentence.

Independent Clauses have three components :

  1. They have a subject – they tell the reader what the sentence is about.
  2. They have an action or predicate – they tell the reader what the subject is doing.
  3. They express a complete thought – something happened or was said.

An independent clause can be simply formed with a subject and a verb:

  • Jim reads.

Jim is the subject. Reads is the action or verb. A complete thought was expressed – something was said, and the reader now knows that Jim likes to read.

Independent clauses can also be joined to other independent clauses, if the independent clauses are related. However, they MUST be joined using the proper punctuation.

  • Jim read a book; he really enjoyed the book.

The first clause is an independent clause. Jim is the subject, read is the action, book is the object.

The second clause is an independent clause. He is the subject, enjoyed is the action and the book is the object.

The independent clauses are related, so they can be joined to create a complex sentence. They are correctly joined by a semicolon.

Independent clause can be connected in a variety of ways

  • By a comma and little conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, yet, and sometimes so.)
  • By a semicolon, by itself.
  • By a semicolon accompanied by a conjunctive adverb (such as however, moreover, nevertheless as a result, consequently etc.)
  • And of course, independent clause are often not connected by punctuation at all but are separated by a period.

Independent clauses can be quite complex, but the important thing to remember is that they stand on their own and make sense alone.

Dependent Clause

A dependent clause is a clause that does not express a complete thought.

A clause can be dependent because of the presence of:

  • Marker Word : Before, after, because, since, in order to, although, though, whenever, wherever, whether, while, even though, even if.
  • Conjunction : And, or, nor, but, yet.

Dependent clause can be identified and classified according to their role in the sentence.

Steps to identify and analyse the clause:

  • Identify the separate subordinator and the finite verb.
  • Separate the main clause and subordinate clause.

 (Start with the subordinator and go on till the end until you come across another finite verb).

  • ask questions to the main clause so that the answer is the subordinate clause

What – noun

Which – adjective

When, where, how – adverb

Noun Clause

Noun clauses name a person, place, thing or idea. Since it acts as a noun, it can be a subject, object, a subject complement, an object complement or an appositive.

  • A noun clause does the function of noun in the s
  • Asking the question “what” to the main clause can identify it.
  • It can also substitute with the pronoun.
  • The noun clause may either be in the subject or object position in a sentence.

Example: I know that the students have gone for a picnic.

  • I know – Main clause
  • that the students have gone for a picnic – Subordinate Noun Clause

Adverb Clause

The adverb clause tends to tell us something about the sentence’s main verb, when, why, under what conditions. It modifies verbs and begins with subordinating conjunctions.

Adjectives can often be changed into adverbs if “-ly” is added to them. Adverbs can be found on all three levels.

Word level: I’m leaving later. (When am I leaving?)

Phrase level: Put the book on the table. (Where should you put it?)

Clause level: Because she felt sick. Betty went home. (Why did she go home?)

Adverbs can modify verbs: Bill felt asleep quickly. (How did he fall asleep?)

Adverbs also modify adjectives: Our cat has bright green eyes. (What degree of green?)

They modify other adverbs, as well: I cannot run very quickly. (How quickly?)

Note : Qualifiers such as very, often, always, not, and never are adverbs

Adjective Clause

Adjective clauses modify nouns and usually begin with a relative pronoun and sometimes with a subordinating conjunction.They function as “modifiers” (change agents) in a sentence and can be labeled on all three levels.

Word level: Tommy pulled the red wagon down the street. (What kind of wagon?)

Phrase level: A man with a beard came into the room. (Which man?)

Clause level: All students whose cars are illegally parked will be ticketed. (Which students?)

Punctuation Marking

With noun clauses, no commas are used. Adjective restrictive clauses are not separated by commas, but with adjective descriptive clauses commas are used.

Adverb clauses that come before the independent clause are followed by a comma, but if they come after the independent clause, no comma is used.

Subordinate Clause

A subordinate clause depends on a main clause for its meaning. Together with a main clause, a subordinate clause forms part of a complex sentence. Here are two examples of sentences containing subordinate clauses:
Example: After we had had lunch, we went back to work.

  • After we had had lunch, [subordinate clause]
  • we went back to work. [main clause]

Example: I first saw her in Paris, where I lived in the early nineties.

  • I first saw her in Paris, [main clause]
  • where I lived in the early nineties. [subordinate clause]

Types of Subordinate Clause

There are two main types of subordinate clause:

  • conditional clauses and
  • relative clauses.

Conditional Clause

A conditional clause is one that usually begins with if or unless and describes something that is possible or probable:
Example: 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]

Example: I’ll be home tomorrow unless the plane delayed for hours.

  • I’ll be home tomorrow [main clause]
  • unless the plane’s delayed for hours. [conditional clause]

Relative Clause

A relative clause is one connected to a main clause by a word such as which, that, whom, whose, when, where, or who:
Example: I first saw her in Paris, where I lived in the early nineties.

  • I first saw her in Paris, [main clause]
  • where I lived in the early nineties. [relative clause]

Example: She wants to be with Thomas, who is best suited to take care of her.

  • She wants to be with Thomas, [main clause]
  • who is best suited to take care of her. [relative clause]

Example: I was wearing the dress that I bought to wear to Jo’s party.

  • I was wearing the dress [main clause]
  • that I bought to wear to Jo’s party. [relative clause]

Using Relative Clauses: Have you ever wondered about when to use that and when to use which or who in this type of sentence? In fact, for much of the time that is interchangeable with either of these words. For example:

  • You’re the only person who has ever listened to me.
  • You’re the only person that has ever listened to me.
  • It’s a film that should be seen by everyone.
  • It’s a film which should be seen by everyone.

When referring to something, rather than someone, that tends to be the usual choice in everyday writing and conversation in British English.


However, there is one main case when you should not use that to introduce a relative clause. This is related to the fact that there are two types of relative clause:

  • a restrictive relative clause and
  • a non-restrictive relative clause.

Restrictive Relative Clause

A restrictive relative clause (also known as a defining relative clause) gives essential information about a noun that comes before it: without this clause the sentence wouldn’t make much sense.


A restrictive relative clause can be introduced by that, which, whose, who, or whom. You should not place a comma in front of a restrictive relative clause:
Example: She held out the hand which was hurt.

  • She held out the hand [main clause]
  • which was hurt. [restrictive relative clause]

Example: She held out the hand that was hurt.

  • She held out the hand [main clause]
  • that was hurt. [restrictive relative clause]

You can also leave out that or which in some restrictive relative clauses:

  • It reminded him of the house that he used to rent in Oxford.
  • It reminded him of the house which he used to rent in Oxford.
  • It reminded him of the house he used to rent in Oxford.

 Non-restrictive Relative Clause

A non-restrictive relative clause (also called a non-defining relative clause) provides extra information that could be left out without affecting the meaning or structure of the sentence.


Non-restrictive relative clauses are normally introduced by which, whose, who, or whom, but never by that. You should place a comma in front of them:
Example: She held out her hand, which Rob shook.

  • She held out her hand, [main clause]
  • which Rob shook. [non-restrictive relative clause]

If a non-restrictive relative clause is in the middle of a sentence, you should put commas before and after it:
Example: Bill, who had fallen asleep on the sofa, suddenly roused himself.

  • who had fallen asleep on the sofa [non-restrictive relative clause]

Thanks for reading about “types of subordinate clause”.

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