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Category: Grammar concepts

Clauses in English: Meaning and usage with examples

When learning or teaching English, we often hear about ‘clauses’. But what is a clause? Is a clause a sentence? In this post, perhaps a little ambitiously, I’m going to try to give you an outline and examples of common types of clauses that you might encounter in English, and give you an idea of how to understand and use them. I say ambitious, because there are lots of different kinds of clauses, used in lots of different ways, and there’s no way a simple summary could hope to capture them all. The topics that I’ll try to cover in this post are:

Simple clauses

The simplest clauses are the same as the simplest sentences. These are most often a series of words that follow the pattern subject-verb-object or just subject-verb.

Noun Phrases: Meaning and usage with examples

Most people who have studied English in school can identify a few basic parts of speech. Most English speakers could point out the nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles, prepositions, conjunctions, or pronouns, for example, though they may struggle with some ideas like the subject or object of a sentence, or whether a verb is transitive or intransitive. Few will have heard of noun phrases.

These word categories are important in understanding how sentences work, but knowing only them is like trying to understand how the human body works by just memorising the names of bones. It’s a start, but it’s not the whole picture.

This post is the first in a series where I explore some of the fundamental ideas in English grammar. I want this to be useful to people who’ve spoken English their whole lives as well as English language learners, so I’m not going to assume much knowledge.