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Phrases & Clauses

What is a phrase?

DEFINITION: A phrase is a group of related words that does not include a subject and verb.

The Garden of Phrases - http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/phrases.htm

What is a clause?

DEFINITION: A clause is a closely related group of words that includes both a subject and a verb.

FANTASTIC handout that shows you how to recognize a clause when you see one, and the four types of clauses - main, subordinate, relative, and noun clauses. http://chompchomp.com/terms/clause.htm

Identifying Phrases and Clauses - The Purdue Online Writing Lab

Is it really a big deal? YES, it is!

Phrases & Clauses - University of Chicago Wrting Program

A Ten Minute Tour of Complex Sentences: Phrases, Clauses, and What They Do

Independent and Dependent Clauses

Independent Clauses
A clause is a group of words containing at least a subject and a verb (the baby ate), and frequently it lets its hair down by containing some kind of a complement as well (the baby ate the goldfish). There are two kinds of clauses: independent and dependent.

Like John Wayne, an independent clause can stand alone.
Example: I shall haunt you till your dying day.

It may, however, become part of a larger sentence if it is connected to other clauses and phrases by a semicolon or by a coordinating conjunction.

Example 1: I shall haunt you till your dying day; I shall haunt your friends and relations after that.

Example 2: I shall haunt you till your dying day, and I shall haunt your friends and relations after that.

If you try to join two independent clauses with a comma, grammatical purists among your readers will regard you with horror as the perpetrator of a comma splice. While it's true that other crises, such as global warming, are more important than this, have pity on the purists. Use a semicolon or a coordinating conjunction to join two independent clauses.

The coordinating conjunctions that join independent clauses include and, but, or, nor, neither, yet, for, or, and so. The coordinating conjunction does not belong in either clause, but merely joins them together. Put a comma before the coordinating conjunction (but note that this particular punctuation rule is so commonly ignored -- particularly in short sentences -- that it is in danger of disappearing).

He grabbed his iPhone, and he checked his email.
Fanny Dooley likes sunbathing, but she loves swimming.
She had lost her castanets, so she used her uncle's dentures.
The cat had broken their Ming vase, yet it did not seem to care.

Dependent clauses and the conjunctions they need
A dependent clause has a subject and a verb, and looks exactly like an independent clause except for one small thing: it is introduced by either a relative pronoun or a subordinating conjunction, which makes the clause grammatically "dependent" on the rest of the sentence.

He dropped his iPhone before he checked his email.
If you're very sweet to me, I'll let you see my collection of exotic tofu sculptures.

Relative pronouns include who, whom, which, that, what, whoever, whatever, and whichever. They "relate" the material in the clause to an antecedent that appears elsewhere in the sentence. In "the bag of potato chips that I ate," the "that" introducing the clause relates back to "bag of potato chips."

Subordinating conjuctions are best classified according to the kind of relationship they express between clauses:

Time: before, after, when, until, while, as soon as, as long as.
Place: where, wherever
Purpose: so that, in order that, so
Cause: because, since
Condition: if, unless, provided that, except
Contrast: although, though, even though, despite, in spite of

What to do with a dependent clause
Dependent clauses like to make themselves useful within their sentences; they may act as nouns, as adjectives, or as adverbs.

Dependent clauses as nouns: Dependent clauses used as nouns can be introduced either by a relative pronoun or by a subordinating conjunction (that, whether).

I wonder whether ontology recapitulates phylogeny. [direct object]
Whatever is lurking under the bed has started to snore. [subject]
She knew that her fiancé had an irrational fear of accordions. [direct object]

Dependent clauses as adjectives: Dependent clauses used as adjectives can be introduced by relative pronouns.

Fred, who had long adored her from a distance, finally proposed as their canoe plunged over the waterfall. [modifies Fred]

The wrestler who is being tossed out of the ring is wearing the toupé that he found under his couch. [modifies wrestler]

Dependent clauses as adverbs: A dependent clause introduced by subordinating conjunction can act the same way as a one word adverb. Put a comma after the dependent clause if it precedes the main clause; do not use a comma if the dependent clause comes after the main clause.

Time: As soon as they were married, she began to miss her bulldog.
Place: The salesman swore to follow Egbert wherever he might go.
Purpose: He only ate the Doritos so I wouldn't eat them myself.
Cause: She married him because he looked just like her bulldog.
Condition: If our guests hear loud screams coming from the tower, they may begin to suspect that Uncle Hubert is still alive.
Concession: Although Stanley believed he had taken every possible precaution, he had forgotten to clean the bloodstains from the boathouse floor.

Source: University of Chicago Writing program http://writing-program.uchicago.edu/
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