English Grammar Basic Grammar and syntax

Clauses: types of clauses in English

Clauses: Types of clauses in English

Your writing cannot make sense without clauses in English. Why do I say that? Later in the post, you’ll understand why clauses are important for your writing to make sense.

What is a clause in English?

main clause adverbial clause. Tita will treat Pedro with indifference whenever she sees him. future indicative present subjunctive. She talks to Pedro before she marries Rosaura. present subjunctive imperative.

Clause definition: A clause in English is a group of words that has a combination of a subject and a verb. It means that it has the presence of both the subject and the verb.


  • I finished my homework last night.
  • I love my students.
  • Jon has been learning English for 5 years.
  • You are my love.
  • The end of the movie was boring.
  • You can do whatever you want to do.

All of these clauses have a subject and a verb and make complete sense. So does it mean that all the clauses make perfect sense? Don’t jump on this conclusion. Let’s look at some more examples of clauses.

  • When I got home.
  • If you do what you love.
  • Until she returns.
  • Like it or not.

Do these clauses make a clear sense? they don’t. These clauses depend on something.

  • What happened when I got home?
  • What happens when you do what you love?
  • What to do until she returns?

Now it is clear that all the clauses are meaningless. But, which clauses are yes and which are not? For that, we must master the types of clauses.

Types of clauses in English

There are two types of clauses in English:

  1. Independent clauses
  2. Dependent clauses

Independent clause

A clause that gives a complete meaning by itself is called an independent clause. It does not depend on anything, and that is why it is called an independent clause. An independent clause is a complete sentence.


  • Most people don’t achieve their goals.
  • Ashish has a desire to travel the world.
  • He wants to buy a car for his father.
  • I’m working on a post right now.
  • Could you sit on that seat?
  • Were you nervous before the interview?

If you want to have several independent clauses in a sentence, use coordinating conjunctions to join them together.

Conjunciones coordinantes: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (FANBOYS)

  • He won’t come to the party because he’s busy.
  • I love her very much, and I can do anything for her.
  • She was terrible in that match, but I still believe in him.
  • Accept the offer or get out of here.
  • We were heavily in debt, so we had to sell our house.

NOTE: When adding two independent clauses using a coordinating conjunction, use a comma before the conjunction.

Dependent clause

A clause that does not give a complete meaning and depends on an independent clause is called a dependent clause. Dependent clauses begin with subordinating conjunctions. They are also known as subordinate clauses because they start with a subordinate conjunction.

Subordinating conjunctions: until, unless, if, when, why, where, after, before, although, as, as, although, as soon as, because, before, for the time, even if, although, every time, In case, now that, since then, so that, the first time, whenever, if, etc.


  • Until I return.
  • Because he had a fever.
  • By when I finish the bottle.
  • When Max is upset.
  • Although he was really hurt.
  • Like it or not.

Look, these clauses are not giving a full meaning. we are left with the question“so what“. Dependent clauses join with independent clauses to give a complete meaning.

Let’s join these dependent clauses with some independent clauses.

  • Do not move from the house until I return.
  • He couldn’t come to the party because he had a fever.
  • By the time I finish the bottle, the party will be over .
  • When Max is upset, he doesn’t talk to people.
  • Although he was really hurt, he finished the fight.
  • Whether you like it or not, they will do it .

NOTE: A combination of an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses is called a complex sentence. When you start with a dependent clause, use a comma after it, but when you start with an independent clause, we don’t use a comma.

Types of dependent clauses

  1. Nominal clauses
  2. Adjective clauses
  3. Adverb clauses

Nominal clause

A noun clause is a dependent clause that functions as a noun in a sentence. Like a noun or noun phrase, a noun clause also functions as a noun:

  1. as the subject
  2. As object of the main verb.
  3. As the object of a preposition.
  4. Matter Complement
  5. Object plugin

Nominal clauses as subject
Examples of noun clauses as a subject:

  • Whatever you’re eating looks attractive.
  • Where we went last year was a beautiful place.
  • Whoever made this building is a genius.
  • Why he broke up with that girl is still a mystery to me.

NOTE: Replace a noun clause with a pronoun or noun to check if it is a noun clause.

  • It looks attractive.
  • The pizza looks attractive.
  • That was a beautiful place.
  • London was a beautiful place.
  • He is a genius.
  • Ashish is a genius.
  • That is still a mystery to me.
  • Your breakup is still a mystery to me.

Like a noun or noun phrase, a noun clause also functions as the subject of a sentence. Noun clauses begin with the following subordinate conjunctions:


Noun clauses as the object of the verb
A noun clause can also function as the object of a verb. Let’s take some examples of noun clauses as the object of an action verb:

  • I don’t know what you like
  • She doesn’t understand what I’m doing.
  • Do you like who I love ?
  • She loves the place where she lives.
  • We got her what she wanted.

NOTE: a sentence must have a transitive verb to have a direct object.

Noun clauses as the object of a preposition
When noun clauses function as the object of a preposition, they come right after the preposition. Let’s take some examples:

  • I’m thinking about what I should do now .
  • He has feelings for who we met last night at the club .
  • Let’s go to where we went last week .
  • I don’t believe in what I haven’t experienced .
  • Do not enter into what you know nothing about .

Noun clauses as the subject complement
Subject Complement Definition: A subject complement is a word or group of words that renames or modifies a subject. A noun renames it and an adjective modifies it.

Now, let’s take some examples of noun clauses as a subject complement:

  • Your true friends are those who help you achieve your goals . (Your true friends = who help you achieve your goals)
  • My favorite people are the ones I’m with right now .
  • Happiness is what’s inside the bag .
  • His problem was he didn’t listen to anyone .

In the examples above, the noun clauses give the subject a new name or describe it with a new name.

Noun clauses as the object complement
Object Complement Definition: An object complement is a word or a group of words (a phrase or a clause) that renames or modifies the direct object. A noun renames it and an adjective modifies it.

Now, let’s take some examples of noun clauses as object complement:

  • You can call me whatever you want .
  • They chose me what I wanted to be .
  • The company will announce the winner who completes the task first .

Adjective clause

An adjective clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adjective. It comes right after the noun or pronoun it modifies. An adjective clause begins with the following subordinating conjunctions (relative pronouns): who, who, whose, that, which, why, where, and when.


  • The boy who lives next door to me is a famous actor.
  • I love the book you gave me for my birthday.
  • Do you have something I can read on the plane?
  • The man whose daughter you have kidnapped is a gangster.
  • Rajiv Chowk , which is one of the most famous metro stations in Delhi , is the place where I used to meet she .
  • Do you still remember the time when we put classes to bed to play ?
  • Most people don’t know the reason why they do what they do .

Adjective clauses are colored in red and the nouns or pronouns they modify are in bold.

NOTE: WHICH is used at the beginning of an adjective clause to provide non-essential information and is offset by commas.

Types of adjective clauses
There are two types of adjective clauses according to the information they give:

  1. Essential adjective clauses
  2. Non-essential adjective clauses

Essential adjective clause
Essential adjective clauses are dependent clauses that modify a noun or pronoun with essential or defining information. The noun or pronoun they identify are neither proper nor specific.

Essential adjective clauses are also called defining adjective clauses.


  • Do you know someone who can teach me how to fight ?
  • People who know how to control the mind do something great.
  • We are looking for a place where we can open our academy .
  • I know the reason why she broke up with you .

Non-essential adjective clause

Nonessential adjective clauses are dependent clauses that modify a noun or pronoun with nonessential or nondefining information. The noun or pronoun they identify are proper (already identified).

Non-essential adjective clauses are also called non-defining adjective clauses.

  • Last year we went on a trip to Bali , which is a beautiful place .
  • Gary , who is a great human being , will be arriving in India soon.
  • Do you even know Jon , whose brother you hit last night ?

NOTE: WHO may be used to provide essential and non-essential information, and WHAT may not be used to provide essential information.

Adverb clause

An adverb clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adverb in a sentence. It modifies the main verb and tells us WHY, WHEN, WHERE and HOW an action occurs. Since it is a dependent clause, it begins with a subordinate conjunction.


  • He left the job because he was not happy with the new company policies.
    (The adverb clause answers WHY the action happened.)
  • They’ll come meet us where we used to party .
    (The adverb clause answers WHERE the action will happen.)
  • You can watch TV after you finish your meal .
    (The adverb clause answers WHEN the action can occur.)
  • They were kissing in the park as if no one was there .
    (The adverb clause answers HOW the action was happening.)

Here is a list of subordinating conjunctions that are used in adverbial clauses when answering the following questions:

HOW as if
WHY since, as, because, then, because of, now that, since, for what
WHEN when, whenever, after, before, from, until, while, as soon as, as long as, once
WHERE where, anywhere, everywhere

Types of adverbial clauses

Types of adverbial clauses

  1. Adverbial clause of place
  2. Adverbial clause of time
  3. Reason/purpose adverbial clause
  4. Contrast adverbial clause
  5. Adverbial condition clause

Adverb clause of place
An adverbial clause of place answers the question WHY; tells us the place of an action.

Conjunctions used: where, anywhere, everywhere


  • You will find us where we used to party back in the days .
  • I see you wherever I go .
  • It’s my house. You can sleep whereveryou want .

Adverbial clause of time

An adverbial clause of time modifies a verb and tells us WHEN it takes place.

Conjunctions used: after, before, until, by time, as soon as, when, whenever, since


  • I’ll call you after the meeting is over .
  • Everyone started crying as soon as I gave my resignation .

Adverb clause of reason/purpose
A reason/purpose adverbial clause modifies a verb and tells us WHY the action occurs. It tells us the motive or purpose of the action.

Used conjunctions: because, since, like, then, so that, that


  • Jon quit the job because he wasn’t happy with his salary.
  • As it was raining cats and dogs , we didn’t move.
  • He is working day and night so that his family can live happily

Contrast adverbial clause

The adverbial clause, like the adverb, complements or says something about a verb. Some adverbial clauses express the way, the place or the time in which the action is carried out. (adverbial clause of place) The news hit him where it hurt the most: all over his body.

A contrasting adverbial clause modifies a verb by giving contrasting information.

Used conjunctions: Although, though, though


  • Although she had a high fever , she continued to work.
  • The beggar gave me the only hamburger he had even though he was hungry .

Adverb clause of condition
An adverbial clause of condition modifies a verb by saying in what condition it happens.

Conjunctions used: if, only if, unless


  • If you apologize to her , I’ll let you work here.
  • Your car will not be returned unless you pay off the loan .

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