1.8 Clauses

8. Clauses

Simple Sentence, Compound Sentence, Complex Sentence, Main Clause, Subordinate Clause, Connective, Conjunction, Finite Verb, Non-finite Verb, Non-Finite Clause, Relative Clause

Taking the basic sentence types:

SV                               I exist.

SVO                            I eat dinner.

SVOdOi                      I gave the football to John.

SVC                             He is an idiot.

As well as adding adjectives, adverbs and adverbials, a lot more can be added by using extra verbs – and so having more happening around the basics of any account.

I eat dinner.

Is an example of a simple sentence, because it has only one verb.

There are two ways that additional verbs can be added to the simple sentence.

The most basic way is by using one of the three conjunctions and, but, or – to form a compound sentence.

I eat dinner but I don’t eat breakfast.

This is the most basic way because the two parts of the sentence are separate and not dependent on each other.

The other way is by using a connective. There are many possible connectives (rather than just three as there are with conjunctions). The result is a complex sentence.

I eat dinner because I don’t eat breakfast.

In this instance the two parts are not independent of each other for their meaning. The original part, now the main clause, could stand on its own; however, the other part, the subordinate clause could not.

I eat dinner.

Because I don’t eat breakfast.

For this to make sense it is important to realise the following:

I eat dinner but I don’t eat breakfast.

Amounts to the same thing as the two sentences:


I eat dinner.

I don’t eat breakfast.

Whereas the following does not:

I eat dinner because I don’t eat breakfast.

Therefore, the connective “because” must be retained in any new version, leaving us with.

I eat dinner.

Because I don’t eat breakfast.

What about the following?

Caught in the act, Tommy was ashamed of himself.

The main clause here is “Tommy was ashamed of himself”; what of the remainder of this sentence: “Caught in the act”?

The verb “caught” in this clause is not a complete verb, because looking at this clause on its own you don’t know exactly who was being caught or when the catching was being done – it is described as a non-finite verb, as opposed to a finite verb – which in and of itself is of little interest, but the non-finite clause is very useful to spot and comment on:

Smiling to himself, Tommy pleaded his innocence.

Sunk into depression, Mary walked on to school.

As with non-finite clauses, subordinate clauses (and relative clauses – a type of subordinate clause starting with the connectives: who, whose, which, that) should be commented on not for “adding more detail” but for the specific effect specific instances have on a reader.


The subordinate clause “because he could” is added to the sentence by the author to sum up the vindictiveness of the little boy, who has no real reason for breaking the other child’s tractor other than pure spite.


So there are as many reasons for subordinate clauses, relative clauses, or non-finite clauses as there are instances of them. Locate some and begin to make a list of these reasons.


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