Phrases and Clauses - Structure and Usage of Both - Academic Feedback


Saturday 2 November 2019

Phrases and Clauses - Structure and Usage of Both

English is a complicated language and sometimes it takes on ways that end up confusing even the most learned of peoples. There are two grammatical terms that form part of a sentence that may or may not be grammatical. These are phrases and clauses; while the phrase implies a set of words that acts as a single unit but does not have a subject and predicate.

On the other hand, a clause is also a group of words that contain a subject and a predicate. The best way to understand what phrase and clause is and the structure and usage of both is made easy with help of examples:

She lives in Gujarat, since 2012.

I went to my home, after returning from the party, last night.

The first sentence is only a phrase as it does not contain any subject-verb pairing while she lives in Gujrat is a clause and has both subject and verb. On the other hand, the next sentence is a clause as it contains both a subject and a verb, home and party are the phrases as they are just a group of words, not delivering any meaning. 


It is important to know that phrases can be very short or very long. The prime examples are:

“After dinner”

“Waiting for the rain to stop”.

Phrases cannot be used alone but they can be used as a part of the sentence where they are used as parts of speech. Words without a subject or a verb make up a phrase as it does not have any verb or subject. 


Group of words that have both subjects and predicates are known as clause. They are not like the phrases as they can sometime act as sentences. The examples are:

“When the man broke into the house, the dog barked at him”

There are two types of clauses, dependent as well as independent. a dependent clause cannot stand on its own as it requires an independent clause to complete a sentence. Dependent clauses often begin with such words as although, since, if, when, and because.

Main differences between phrases and clauses

The following point highlight the difference between phrases and clauses are:

A phrase is defined as a group of two or more than two words related to one another that make up a single unit. On the other hand, the clause is a part of a sentence that contains a subject (noun phrase) which actively performs an action (finite verb form).

A phrase is a part of a clause or a sentence while the clause is a sentence fragment.

A clause has a subject and predicate, but a phrase does not have

A phrase cannot be on its own, as it does not convey a meaning. In contrast, a clause is a standalone statement and it can convey a thought or idea.

It is necessary to understand that while clauses, phrases and sentences might seem very similar at first, on closer look you can check out how they function and what they do. In order to identify and use them correctly, it is necessary that you keep an eye out and work out their structure. 

Structure and usage of phrases and clauses

A phrase is a collection of words that may have nouns or verbs, 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

after the devastation

between ignorance and intelligence

broken into thousands of pieces

because of her glittering smile

In the above mentioned examples, the nouns are dog, fence, devastation, ignorance, intelligence, thousands, pieces but the noun does not function as a subject doing any activity.

A clause is a collection of words that has a subject that is actively doing an activity. The following are examples of clauses:

since she laughs at diffident men

I despise individuals of low character

when the saints go marching in

Obediah Simpson is uglier than a rabid raccoon

because she smiled at him.

In the above mentioned examples, the noun or the pronoun, the subject is attached to a verb. 

When learning English language, you need to know that phrases, clauses and sentences are the most important structural units of this language. Not only this but they provide structure and meaning to almost all the languages. The phrases and clauses provide a sense to a sentence. Knowing and understanding the differences between the two is a necessary part of writing sentences that are grammatically correct and also properly constructed and easy to understand.

Information by: Coursework help.

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