Phrases and clauses are the building blocks of sentences. But what is the difference between a phrase and a clause?
A phrase is a group of words that lacks both a subject and predicate. A clause, on the other hand, does have both a subject and a verb. It can also stand on its own.
Clauses and Phrases
Phrases and clauses are both important parts of sentences. They add more meaning, help us express complex ideas, and enhance our grammar. But understanding the difference between them can be confusing for writers and speakers alike. Learn how to use phrases and clauses correctly and you’ll be a stronger writer, speaker, or editor.
In the most general sense, a clause has both a subject and a verb, while a phrase does not. Phrases can be a group of words or an entire sentence, but they cannot stand on their own as a complete thought. Clauses are the building blocks of sentences and can be used as nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs.
When deciphering whether a group of words is a phrase or a clause, look for a finite verb. A finite verb has a specific grammatical tense and corresponds to a subject in a sentence. Examples of finite verbs include is, has been, and will be. On the other hand, a non-finite verb doesn’t have a specific grammatical tense, such as to go and to be.
A phrase can also contain a conjunction or an adjective, and it may use a linking verb. For example, a gerund phrase can begin with the verb to be and have a noun, while an infinitive clause starts with the linking verb to and has a noun.
Phrases are often used as sentence modifiers or to add additional description, but they can also provide more precise detail and nuances. Similarly, clauses can be used as sentence modifiers and to add more detail, but they can also serve as the basis of entire thoughts or sentences. Understanding the differences between these two structures allows you to add more precise language and complexity to your writing. To get a clearer picture of the difference between clauses and phrases, check out this article on Grammarly’s blog. And be sure to give your writing a run-through with Grammarly’s editing tools—our suggestions catch syntax mistakes and awkward phrasing that you might miss otherwise.
Independent clauses contain at least one subject and predicate, so they communicate a complete notion on their own. They can be joined to other independent clauses by a coordinating conjunction, a semicolon, or a colon. They can also replace other independent nouns in a sentence, such as the example below.
A dependent clause contains a subject and a verb but can only be part of a full sentence when attached to an independent clause. Dependent clauses start with words like although, since, when, if, while, and because to give background information but cannot stand on their own as sentences.
In grammar, a dependent clause can function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. Noun dependent clauses introduce nouns or pronouns, while adjective and adverb dependent clauses modify the meaning of words in a sentence.
An independent clause can be a full sentence or a separate phrase in a sentence. When combined with other independent clauses, they can express complex thoughts and ideas. Independent clauses can be separated by a comma in a sentence, and they should always be joined by a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon.
A comma splice is when an independent clause is joined to another independent clause without the correct punctuation. For example, “Jim studied in the Sweet Shop for his chemistry quiz.” It is important to understand the difference between independent and dependent clauses so that you can use proper punctuation when composing a sentence. This will prevent grammatical errors, such as comma splices, which are common mistakes that can cause confusion and miscommunication. Using Grammarly’s plagiarism and grammar checker can help you avoid these errors. This software will also highlight any issues that it finds with your sentence structure and recommend corrections. It will help you create more clear and concise writing, so that your ideas are more easily understood by others. Start your free trial of Grammarly today to see how it can improve your writing.