phrases and clauses introduction
It is very important to understand the difference between phrases and clauses. In our next few blogs we will go into more detail about the different forms of phrases and clauses.
A phrase is a group of words that may contain a noun or a verb (not both), but it does not have the noun doing the verb. A clause is a group or collection of words and contains both a verb and a noun, with the noun doing the verb. A phrase does not express a complete idea, while a clause can – these are called independent clauses. Those phrases that do not contain a complete idea are called independent phrases. Phrases and clauses also determine the kind of punctuation that you use. If you have a main or independent clause, and you put a comma after it, the collection of words that follows should not be such that they can stand by their own. (Our grammar blogs on Punctuation, especially about commas, semi-colons and colons explain usage of punctuation with phrases and clauses.)
examples of phrases and clauses
if not for you
holding on to an umbrella
with cap in hand
If not for you, I would never have made it.
I saw her standing there, holding onto an umbrella.
Sensing danger, they fled.
With cap in hand, the boy bowed before the old soldier.
Note that these phrases are functioning as a separate part of speech, but within a sentence.
We went home to feed the dogs, then raced to the movies. 2 clauses here: an independent clause is first, the second is a dependent clause.
This independent clause contains a subject and a predicate verb (We – subject) (went home to feed the dogs). The dependent clause does not contain a subject:
I raced to the movies, but did not make it on time.
When a collection of words does not contain a subject and predicate(verb), this is called phrase.
Phrases and clauses are therefore very different. A phrase may have a noun or a verb, but it does not have both. A group of words with a noun and a verb is a clause. A clause contains a subject and a predicate, and may stand alone as a sentence or as part of a sentence. Sometimes a clause will stand alone within the sentence. This is known as an independent clause. However, a clause within a sentence can also be a dependent or subordinate clause. Another way to understand the difference between phrases and clauses, is that phrase never contain a complete thought, while clauses – in the form of independent clauses – can contain a complete thought and be a sentence in themselves.