2.3 sentences, clauses, phrases

The Simple Sentence consists of just one clause, that is, it has only a single verb, and the verb dictates the structure of the sentence:

Subject + Verb                                                            “I arrived.”

Subject + Verb + Object                                             “I shot J.R.”

Subject + Verb + Object + Object                              “I bought Jerry a car.”

Subject + Verb + Complement                                   “I am happy.”

Subject + Verb + Adverbial                                        “I went to Paris.”

Of course, optional extras can be added on, adjectives squeezed in before nouns, an adverb tagged on just about anywhere, or another clause tagged on to make a compound or complex sentence.

Simple sentences are all well and good, but to express more complex ideas they fall short. Too many simple sentences lead to simplistic or “babyish” texts; it is the link between clauses that allows languages to express subtle and complicated meanings.

A Simple Sentence has just one verb, adding another clause with an “and”, “but” or “or” creates a Compound Sentence:

“I shot J.R. and I went to Paris.”

…meaning more or less the same thing as…

“I went to Paris but I shot J.R.”

…so a compound sentence is nothing more than two simple sentences stuck together; there is no rise in the level of complexity; unlike for a Complex Sentence:

“I shot J.R. because I went to Paris.”

“I went to Paris because I shot J.R.”

…these two sentences mean completely different things, because there is meaning in the connective “because”. All such connectives or subordinators make complex sentences, where one clause is subordinate to the other:

…“because I went to Paris” is the Subordinate Clause in the first sentence, and “I shot J.R.” is the Main Clause. The main clause can stand on its own, i.e. it could be a sentence in its own right; the subordinate clause cannot.

Consider the following text; as with any text, it is made up of simple, compound and complex sentences; therefore it has both main and subordinate clauses.

The main clause is the main part of the sentence, without which the sentence would just not exist; however, the subordinate clause has been “tagged on” for some reason; the question to ask is why.

Locate six subordinate clauses in this text and consider:

a)      Why that specific subordinate clause has been included

b)      Why that specific subordinate clause has been placed in that position in the sentence

Upfront: Men who would’ve if they could’ve

You may have the cashmere polo and Dylan on the iPod, but if you think you’re a Groovy Old Man, you probably aren’t

Kathryn Flett, The Observer, Sunday November 30 2008

In his recently published book, Groovy Old Men, Nick Baker (56) charts in impressive, if occasionally exhausting, detail the demographic that hopes it really will die before it gets old. It’s not, according to the author, a ‘how-to’ guide, because an attempt to acquire grooviness is a non-starter: you either is or you isn’t, while those who think they are almost certainly aren’t. No, this is a ‘spotter’s guide’, though a quick look at Amazon’s ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought …’ reveals that Groovy Old Men purchasers are also hooking up with copies of Stephen Fry’s QI: Advanced Banter, Philip Norman’s John Lennon: The Life, The Rolling Stones Shine a Light DVD, Peter Bogdanovich’s Tom Petty film, Runnin’ Down a Dream, and Andrew Simms’s Tescopoly, which is as blokeishly Old and Groovy as it gets, though of course this may just be Groovy Old Man’s hep missus putting together a brilliantly niched Christmas stocking for her spouse.

Baker defines the GOM as ‘stylish pre-Boom babies made special by the Sixties that helped shape them, and the bus-pass sixties they’re now enjoying. Or may have already left …’ It’s not that a GOM must have marched at Aldermaston, twisted and shouted at the Cavern or been a runner on Blow-Up – there just aren’t enough top-class pop cultural ‘I was there’ moments to comfortably accommodate the world’s GOM population – but he has to be the sort who would’ve if he could’ve.

And merely looking groovy is not enough. I often think I’ve identified a passing Groovy Old Man, confusing an ability to wear a three-button jacket without doing up the top or bottom ones with some sort of commensurate inner grooviness. Shallow of me, I know, but back in the day it was often the case that a man who knew how to dress also knew how to live, however there are now plenty of Nearly Groovy Old Men who know about buying good clothes but who will still go home and put them on wire hangers inside a varnished pine fitted wardrobe.

Mind you, try-too-hards are worse – would-be Stephen Bayleys, Paul Smiths and John Pawsons whose sense of style is gleaned from, well, the Bayleys, Smiths and Pawsons of the world. These wannabes are more style kangaroos than gurus – wallabies? – hopping from one consumer fix to another, believing that a copy of GQ and a stroll down Savile Row will instantaneously up their Groove Quotient. But money has never been a prerequisite for Grooviness and, given that Simon Cowell will never be a GOM, it may even be a hindrance.

I grew up with a Groovy Old Man – literally. My dad was a groovy young man before I was born, a groovy middle-aged man during my formative years and is now an iPod-toting, silver-surfing, Church’s shoes, cashmere polo-neck and Ray-Ban’s-wearing incarnation of septuagenarian grooviness, a dad who once came home from his Savile Row office and announced, ‘The Beatles were playing up on the roof …’ and is now a bit deaf because, when his head wasn’t stuck in a bass-bin at a gig, he was turning the Steely Dan up too high on his (first edition, 1979) Sony Walkman. In the absence of her mother, what was a teenage girl to do when her GOM bought her a pot of fluoro-pink hair-dye as a present? Denied traditional teen rebellions it was easiest to go totally off the rails. Peaches Geldof, I feel your pain.

Groovy Old Men didn’t only define my childhood but my adult life, too. I’ve never actually dated or married one – that would be too tragically Freudian – but over the past 25 years I have had three outstandingly Groovy Old(er) Men as inspirational professional mentors, without whom, etc. None of these impeccable groovesters is ‘old’ even now, but all are heading in that direction, albeit in different ways.

Needless to say, I doubt any of them – and they know who they are – would be caught dead before-they-got-old with a copy of Groovy Old Men, but if they said they couldn’t rustle up a Dylan bootleg, some Tom Petty and a couple of Philip Normans between them I’m fairly sure they’d be lying, bless their silk-and-cashmere blend socks. Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to have a few of your own kicking around, please do remember that Groovy Old Men are not just for Christmas shopping, they’re for (a very long and groovy) life.

  1. 1.      Front Focus or fronting – putting that part of the sentence which can be moved around, e.g. a subordinate clause or a prepositional phrase, at the front of the sentence in order to give it priority in the attention of the reader.


  1. 2.      End Focus – apart from the front of a sentence, the end of a sentence gives the most attention to a phrase, word or clause. If a word, phrase or clause can be moved to the end of a sentence then it is given greater prominence than if it is hidden away in the middle, perhaps as an embedded clause would be; however, the front of the sentence still carries far more prominence.


  1. 3.      Embedding – An Embedded Clause is where a subordinate clause is dropped into a main clause, so it does not feature either at the end (end focused) or the beginning (front focused) of the sentence; it is relatively hidden away, not being given prominence by the author ; it languishes in the belly of the sentence.


  1. 4.      Parallelism – or “syntactic parallelism” – when the grammatical (or syntactical) structure of a clause is repeated for rhetorical effect. E.g. “I have a dream, that one day… I have a car, that one day… I have a feeling, that dreams of cars…”


…subordinate clauses can be created with any of the subordinators, allowing the writer to add information as well as complexity to any explanation:










in case

in order that



















as far as

as if

as long as

as soon as

as though

assuming (that)


given (that)

granted (that)

in case

ir order for

in order that

insofar as

in the event that

providing (that)

provided (that)

such that


Clauses Analysis:

The make up of the sentence: the sentence’s components:

–          Main Clause

–          Subordinate Clause

–          Prepositional Phrase / Adverbial

–          Non-Finite Clause

–          Relative Clause

–          Noun Phrase

–          Embedded/Parenthetic Phrase

–          Embedded/Parenthetic Clause

–          Subject

–          Object

–          Complement

The order of the sentence’s components:

–          Which component is put at the front of the sentence = Fronting, Front Loading, Front Focus

–          Which component is hidden away inside the sentence = Embedded

–          Which component is tagged on at the end = End Focus

This skill of clause analysis is the most refined level of grammatical analysis and will get you the most marks in any analytical essay.

It allows you to say informed and subtle things about sentences, clauses and phrases – in terms of how the author is drawing the reader’s attention a certain way or create a specific impact.

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