What are Clauses?

She has a heart of gold.

She has a heart which is referred to as gold.

learn english grammar clause

Here, in the first sentence, the group of underlined words acts as a phrase which doesn’t make complete sense. The sentence when seen as a whole completes the meaning.

In the second sentence, the group of underlined words, unlike the phrase of gold, contains a Subject (which) and a Predicate (is referred to as gold.) Such group of words which contain a Subject as well as a Predicate, and forms a part of a sentence are known as clauses.

Check some more examples for understanding clauses in a better way:

I think you have made a mistake.

We cannot start while it is raining.

People who don’t pay their debts are never to be trusted.

I do it because I choose to.

Since you have already decided, why do you ask my opinion?

If I make a promise I keep it.

The entity “doing” the action in the sentence is the subject and the action that is being completed by the subject is the verb. When a complete thought is created which can take a form of an idea or a statement, it is a clause.

In English grammar, however simple they appear, clauses can function in many complex ways. A clause can work as a simple standalone sentence, or it may take two or more other clauses joined by interjection to form complex sentences.

A simple sentence is easy to understand as it contains only one clause. Here are some examples of simple sentences that are each comprised of a single clause to make you understand:

Simol played.

Mommy cooked the dinner.

A man in Ohio swam in the river.

Joey will excel on the varsity team.

Payal has been dreaming during class. 

Classes of Clauses:

  • Independent Clauses:

Each Clause makes good sense by itself, hence could stand by itself as a separate sentence, each clause of the same order or rank is called an Independent Clause.

For ex:

Night came on and rain fell heavily and we all got wet.

As the boxers advanced into the ring, the people said they would not allow them to fight.

Ruchi called at 5:30 and I told her that you had gone out.

  • Dependent Clauses:

The Clause which cannot stand by itself and make sense is called as a dependent or a subordinate clause.

For ex:

As the boxers advanced into the ring, the people said they would not allow them to fight.

Ruchi called at 5:30 and I told her that you had gone out. 

Types of Clauses:

Clauses can play a variety of roles in any given sentences. A clause whether dependent or independent can act as an adjective, an adverb or a noun.

  • Adjective Clauses:

A group of words that contains a Subject and a Predicate of its own is an adjective clause and it works as an adjective.

For ex:

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

  • (qualifies ‘people’)

I have a little shadow which goes in and out with me.

  • (qualifies ‘shadow’)

They never fail who die in a great cause.

  • (qualifies ‘they’)

Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow.

  • (qualifies ‘lamb’)

He that climbs too high is sure to fail.

  • (qualifies ‘he’)

The letter brought money which was badly needed.

  • (qualifies ‘money’)


  • Adverb Clauses:

A group of words which contains a Subject and a Predicate of its own is termed as an adverb clause and works as an Adverb.

For ex:

If I make a promise, I keep it.

I shall remain where I am.

Just as she entered the room the clock struck.

Take a lamp because the night is dark.

Because you have done this I shall punish you.

It was so dark that you could not see your hand.


  • Noun Clauses:

A group of words which contains a Subject and a Predicate of its own is termed as a Noun Clause and works as a Noun.

For ex:

I often wonder how you are getting on.

I don’t see how you can get out of this mess.

There were no complains except that the day was too hot.

Pay careful attention to what I am going to say.

Where we were to lodge that night was the problem.

How the burglar got in is a mystery!

Clauses behavior:

Consider the below example and notice the work done by the Clause in each:

  • I knew where I could find him.
  • I went to the place where I could find him.
  • I went where I could find him.


In the sentence 1, the Clause does the work of a Noun and is the Object of the verb know.

In the sentence 2, the Clause does the work of an Adjective and qualifies the noun place.

In the sentence 3, the Clause does the work of an adverb and modifies the verb went.

We thus see that the same clause can be a Noun Clause in one sentence, an Adjective Clause in another, and an adverb in yet another.

It is therefore clear that we cannot say what kind of Clause a Clause is unless we carefully examine the work that it does in a sentence.

Some more examples to understand in a better way:

She ate when she was hungry.

  • Adverb Clause. Modifying ‘ate’

We refer to the year when the monsoon failed.

  • Noun Clause. Put in apposition with ‘year’

You will always regret the day when you did this.

  • Adjective Clause. Qualifying ‘day’

This article gives you an overview of what clauses are, their types and their behavior which changes according to the sentences. The key to learning impeccable grammar is to practice and practice. With right practice and sound knowledge, you can easily climb the ladder of success.

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