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What is a clause?

The easiest way to explain a clause is that itís a subject and verb for an active clause or an object and passive verb for a passive clause. So, any time we have one of these two combinations, we call it a clause.

   For example:

    S    V
Tom saw an old friend from school.
                Object                     PV
An old friend from school was seen by Tom.

Besides being either active or passive, clauses are also divided into two main types. These are independent clauses and dependent clauses. As its name suggests, an independent clause can be a complete sentence all by itself. In other words, it doesnít need to be attached to any other clauses to be a good sentence. The sentences in the example above are both independent clauses. On the other hand, a dependent clause cannot be a complete sentence all by itself, and must be attached to an independent clause.

   For example:

    When Tom ate at McBurger, he got sick.
        Dependent Clause             Independent Clause

Every good sentence must have at least one independent clause, but can have a variety of different types of dependent clauses, and adverb clauses are one form of dependent clause.

In the case of adverb clause sentences we can go a step further and switch the position s of the independent and dependent clauses and still keep the original meaning.

   For example:

    Tom got sick when he ate at McBurger.
            IC                            DC

*This is a feature of adverb clauses that can be used as a useful test in distinguishing them from noun clauses.


page last modified: June 22, 2014

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