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The issue of distinguishing between phrases and clauses is causing a lot of mistakes on grammar quizzes. Identifying clauses is the key to identifying sentences types and punctuating a sentence correctly. Let’ review!

|Clauses vs. Phrases (also see Tues. and Wed. notes in DGP) |

|I. A phrase is a collection of words that may have nouns or verbals, but it does not have a subject doing a verb. The following are examples of phrases: |

|leaving behind the dog |

|smashing into a fence |

|before the first test |

|because of her glittering smile |

|into the wilderness |

|In these examples above, you will find nouns (dog, fence, test, devastation, ignorance, intelligence, thousands, pieces). You also have some verbals (leaving, smashing), |

|but in no case is the noun functioning as a subject doing a predicate verb. They are all phrases. |

|II. A clause is a collection of words that has a subject that is actively doing a verb. The following are examples of clauses: |

|I despise individuals of low character |

|Obediah Simpson is uglier than a rabid raccoon. |

|when the saints go marching in |

|since she laughs at men |

|In the examples above, we find either a noun or a pronoun that is a subject (bold-print) attached to a predicate verb (underlined). |

|III. If the clause could stand by itself to form a complete sentence, we call the clause an independent clause. |

|Dependent clauses have a subject doing a verb, but they also have a subordinate conjunction OR relative pronoun placed in front of the clause. That subordinate |

|conjunction means that the clause can't stand independently. Instead, the clause is dependent upon another clause--it can't make a complete sentence by itself. |

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In order to identify and write dependent clauses, you have to spot the subject and the related verb. If you do not feel confident spotting subjects and verbs then be on the lookout for subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns.

While the list of subordinating conjunctions is long (see Monday’s DGP notes for a list), a few of the most frequently used subordinating conjunctions can be memorized in a song (to the tune of Itsy-Bitsy-Spider!) (over)

Subordinate conjunctions: hate or adore?

They're after, although, as, because and before

If, provided, since, and unless, until, and than

There's whenever, wherever, and while and where and when

Don’t forget, dependent clauses can also begin with relative pronouns, including: that, which, who, whom, whose.

Exercise: State whether the following are ind. clauses, dependent clauses, or a Phrase. If clause, label subject and verb.

1. I love bagels and lox

2. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner

3. They were thinking

4. About the basketball game

5. Because they play Tabor

6. Considering everything

7. We hoped

8. For a win

9. Carolina narrowly defeated Tech

10. Which made me nervous but happy


➢ If your sentences has only independent clauses, you can form one of two sentence types: Simple or Compound.

➢ If you sentence contains both independent and dependent clauses you can form one of two other sentence types:

Complex or Compound-Complex.

➢ Phrases can be found in ANY sentence type.

Exercise: Writing and identifying complex or compound-complex sentences can be especially tricky. Many students did not write these sentence types correctly on the last grammar quiz. Review the following sentences from those quizzes. Write “Correct” if the sentences match the type required. If the sentence type is not written correctly, identify and fix the error.

Complex Sentences?

I celebrated because I love the holidays.

After getting my license, I drove around town.

I went to Zumba class with a friend.

I went sledding and cried a lot.

My mom and I went to the mall to buy Christmas presents.

I got the game Black Ops and beat it.

I went to a cool town in the Grand Caymans that is named “Hell.”

While at my neighbor’s party, my friends and I went muddin on a John Deere Gator.

Complex-Compound Sentences?

Because I love the holidays, I celebrated and I had fun.

It snowed on Christmas, and I was happy to finally experience a white Christmas.

I got grounded for miscommunication.

After a long drive, the rest of my family was tired while I was wide awake.

I went to the lake and we had fun but there was no cable.

Since I got an X-Box for Christmas, I played Black Ops a lot and I beat the campaign.

While my parents walked on the beach, I saw a sea turtle, and my brother saw a Portugese-man-of-war.

Even thought we do not celebrate Boxing day, my family friends and I had a party and we donated to Goodwill.

Even thought it was Christmas break I hung out with my friends, and I found time to practice writing sentences.

Let’s review! Compare the following two sentences:

After relaxing for two weeks, some students are eager to return to school while others hate the thought.

When students study for exams, they feel more confident and they are better prepared.

Initially, the structure of the two sentences looks similar. They both start with some kind of phrase or clause (?) set off by a comma. However, these are two entirely different sentence types. Review the notes below and then label the sentence parts, clauses, and type for each sentence.


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