A comprehensive Study on Phrases and Clauses

Solving the debate on Phrase Vs Clauses

Writing a sentence in English consists of many parts, and each part has a purpose of serving along with some characteristics. English is not only considered the most used language, but it is also home to some mysterious terms and phrases that always lead to the debate on phrases vs clauses. Everybody knows that the nose is used for smelling and the feet are used for running, but if a person is suffering from a cold, then we say, “His nose is running” and when there is a foul smell from the shoes, then we say, “ His shoes are smelling”.  Similarly, the phrase “That’s really hot” or “That’s cool” means the same thing in English. You can find two different spellings for the same-sounding words but have different meanings, like know and no or flew and flu or an hour and our; the list can continue. Different spellings and certain grammatical norms make the language difficult to comprehend.

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A sentence can have a phrase and a clause which sometimes makes it difficult to differentiate. These difficulties make the students fear when they are asked to write assignments related to Communication, language, linguistics, etc., in the English course. This blog will help in understanding the phrase vs clause debate and how they differ from each other.

Understanding what phrases vs clauses individually mean

Understanding the difference between phrase and clause is an important aspect that a student should be aware of to score well and also to be correct in their professional life. At times, using phrases and clauses helps vent out our emotions for our near and dear ones. If you had written a letter to your friend when you were young, then it is definite that you must have used phrases and clauses. You were not aware of it at that time, but if in case you have those replies, you will find that the response sent by your friend consists of phrases and clauses.

Let’s first understand the clause:

A clause in English grammar is a set of words having a verb and a subject. People use this form to communicate their thoughts; it’s easy to use as it has a smaller number of words. If a sentence has been said with the help of a clause, then the subject is the one performing the action, and the action is the verb being performed by the subject. The clause can help in the creation of a complete thought which does not require any support, and it can stand alone as a complete statement. Statements like, “He danced” or “Kevin spoke,” or “Let’s celebrate” are all examples of clauses. Now it seems you will get familiar with the phrase vs clause difference.

Now its turns to understand the phrase:

The phrase in English grammar is a set of words that stands united as a team. The phrase can find its place in a clause or a sentence, but it does not have its own subject or verb. Using the phrase, you may not be able to express your thoughts completely. This is the exact difference between a phrase and a clause leading to a better understanding of phrase vs clause difference. Statements having “Best pal” “For ten days”, or “Were standing for the prayer” are all examples of phrases.

If you compare the examples provided for both phrase vs clause, it can be seen that the phrase has no subject performing the action, whereas the clause not only has a subject but also a verb. The phrase always consists of more than one word.

Different categories of phrases and clauses

Usually, writing a phrase starts with one word, but in the process of writing it develops into a complete sentence having a subject and a predicate. Clause plays an important part in the formation of a sentence, but it requires the support of another element to form a communicative thought.

Different Categories of phrases:

In simple terms, a group of words is known as a phrase. It is a part of grammar that helps in making a complete and meaningful sentence. There are six phrases: noun phrase, infinitive phrase, verb phrase, appositive phrase, prepositional phrase, and participle phrase. The below discussion will highlight the definition and examples of these phrases:

Noun phrase: As the name suggests, the phrase will have a noun with divergent modifiers. The white house, the fat boy, a chessboard, the glittering sky, etc., are examples of this phrase. White House, fat boy, is the noun phrase in the examples.

Verb phrase: The phrase will have a verb along with divergent modifiers. She was doing some work; he must run right away, these boys are working hard, and the professor is scolding the student are examples of the verb phrase. In the examples, was doing, run right away, and are working is the verb phrase.

Infinitive phrase: The phrase begins with an infinitive verb along with divergent modifiers. I want to learn to dance quickly, he prefers to eat slowly, and the man returned to pay homage; these are examples of infinitive phrases. In the examples, to learn dance, to eat slowly, to pay homage is the infinitive phrase.

Appositive phrase: It is similar to a noun phrase that renames the nouns present in a sentence. Tennis player Rodger Federer won many grand slams in his career, the journal Management of Science was first published in 1960, television series Friends is the best online comedy series to watch for, are examples of appositive phrases. In the examples, Roger Federer, Management of Science, Friends, is the appositive phrase.

Participle phrase: The participle phrase will start with a participle in present or past form, along with the modifiers. If the participle is in a past form, then the phrase will end with a word having ed, and if it is in the present form, then the phrase will end with a word having ing. Crying, she called her injured mother, removing his shoes, Jen went into the river, and the boy wearing a yellow t-shirt is my cousin are examples of participle phrases. In the examples, crying, removing, and wearing is the participle phrase.

Prepositional phrase: The phrase comprises a preposition, a noun, and other modifiers. There are two cats on the street; she was coming from the left, and Roy was sitting beside me, which are examples of the prepositional phrase. In the examples, the prepositional phrase is on, from, and besides.

Different Categories of clauses:

The English language divides clauses into two sub-categories, namely independent and dependent clauses.

Independent clause: Being independent as per its name, it does not require any support. It can solely represent itself in a sentence. An Independent clause is considered as the smallest part of grammar, having a subject and a verb. The clause can also come along with modifiers and a verb predicate. He was cleaning the dishes without any help, when the sunshine’s, put the clothes on the stand, he was late for the office are examples of independent clauses. In the examples, he was cleaning, when the sunshine’s, he was late, is the independent clause.

Dependent clause: As the name suggests, it is the opposite of an independent clause and requires support if being used in a sentence. It also contains a verb ad a subject. To make a complete sentence, this clause needs to amalgamate with the independent clause to write or state a grammatically correct sentence. The clause comes along with adverb, noun, and adjective clauses. He was able to write his project, and after thorough research, he will work as per his needs; when you go to Australia, do visit the Opera House, which is an example of dependent clauses. In the examples, after thorough research, as per his needs, when you go to Australia, is the dependent clause.

How to differentiate the phrase vs clause in a sentence?

We tried to explain to you the difference between phrase vs clause, but in case you are still in a dilemma, then this part of the paper will help you to understand the difference better.

He is lying on the bed.

The example sentence provided above can be divided into two parts. The 1st part is the act being done, “He is lying”, and the 2nd part is just an extension of the act, “on the bed”. Reading the 1st part separately will give a clear idea about the act without taking the support of the 2nd part. But if you only read the 2nd part, it will not give you a clear idea; on the bed is an incomplete sentence. So it is clear that the first part is a clause that requires no support, and the 2nd part is a phrase that requires support to make sense.

Words used in a phrase have a sense, but they cannot be solely used to make a sentence; phrases can be used to enhance the structure of a sentence. The phrase does not have a subject and an object of its own, whereas the clause has. In the above example, in the 2nd part, “on the bed”, there is no subject, whereas, in the 1st part, “He is lying”, there is a subject as well as an object. “He” is the subject, and “lying” is the object.

Another way of differentiating between phrases vs clauses is to add some points before a sentence, giving the sentence a question format. For example, you can add the words “Is it true that” before a sentence and check whether it makes sense or not. If it makes sense, then it is a sentence or a clause, and if it is not making sense, then it is not a sentence but a phrase.

Let’s take two sentences as an example:

  1. The train to Sydney
  2. The train goes to Sydney.

Now adding the question before the first sentence, Is it true that the train to Sydney. The sentence is not making any sense. It has the train as the subject, but there is no helping verb; the sentence is just a phrase, making no sense.

Now adding the question before the second sentence, Is it true that the train goes to Sydney. The sentence is sensible and sounds complete. It also has the train as the subject along with a helping verb which is going in this case. The verb helps the sentence to make a complete sentence.

phrase vs clause

Let’s revise the difference again; a phrase consists of two or more words connected to each other to form a unit, whereas a clause forms a part of the sentence with a subject that performs the action. The phrase is a part of a sentence or a clause, whereas a clause is a fragment of a sentence. The clause will always have a subject and a predicate, whereas the phrase does not require any such supplements. The phrase will always have to take support to convey a meaningful sentence. In contrast, a clause can independently convey a meaningful sentence until and unless it is not a dependent clause. So, the phrase vs clause difference is evident from the above explanations and the points mentioned in the image. The phrase will always require a clause to build a sensible sentence, whereas the clause requires no such support, and it can solely be used to deliver a sensible sentence.

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