Grammar: Introductory Word, Phrase, or Clause

Posted December 22, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

Revised as of:
14 June 2017

Commonly referred to as the introductory clause, it can also be a mere word or a phrase (in referring to the “introductory clause”, keep in mind that this applies to the “word” and the “phrase”). So it’s an opportunity to see how good your memory is in remembering the difference between clauses and phrases when it comes to the introductory dependent “clause”.

It helps me to think of the phrase as a little brother to the clause, since the phrase doesn’t have a subject + verb.

With that out of the way, an introductory clause introduces, “surprise”, a sentence by providing a quick background for the sentence’s purpose. Of course, that doesn’t mean that an introductory clause/phrase is also at the start of a sentence. Sometimes it shows up later.

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… Are there areas of grammar with which you struggle? If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page and consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.

Introductory Word, Clause, or Phrase
Credit to: Grammarly.com
Definition: A dependent clause or phrase that introduces or provides background for a sentence. Usually found at the beginning of a sentence, it can also appear at the end of the sentence, without confusing the meaning of the sentence.


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Use a Comma with Clauses or Phrases
Rule: Unless the phrase is very short (fewer than 5 words) and begins with a preposition, there should be a comma between the introductory phrase and the main clause. You can use your own judgment here: if you were saying the sentence out loud, would you pause after the introductory phrase?

Explore a list of the most common prepositions and/or a list of the most common prepositional phrases.

A Word as an Introduction Rule: An individual word can introduce a sentence and should always be followed by a comma…when they do begin that sentence. If the introductory word is within the sentence, no comma is needed.

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Partial List of Introductory Words
actually
basically
eventually
finally
first
furthermore
generally
however
indeed
later
meanwhile
next
no
now
still
therefore
well
yes
yet
Legend:

  1. Green indicates the introductory word + comma
  2. Yellow indicates the introductory word without the comma

However, the Fertile Crescent may not actually have been as fertile as the name suggests.

The Fertile Crescent may not actually have been as fertile as the name suggests however.


Indeed, it has been suggested that you are wrong.

It has been suggested that you are indeed wrong.


Therefore, we don’t believe a word you’ve said.

We don’t believe a word you’ve said.


Therefore, we will have to end the meeting early.


Meanwhile, Mary and Joe will continue to research the issue.

Mary and Joe will continue to research the issue while Helen will contact the tribal chieftain.


Introductory Phrase Definition: The phrase is a dependent clause that does not have a subject + verb (otherwise it’d be a clause!) and relies upon the subject + verb in the independent clause.

Rule: [Almost] always use a comma following an introductory phrase that introduces the sentence.

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Common Introductory Phrases Include…
on the one hand
in particular
for example
in the meantime
Legend:

  1. Green indicates the introductory phrase + comma

On the whole, Gregor was going to regret not leaving earlier.

In the meantime, we’d better get camp set up.

For example, this particular specimen can be found anywhere

Introductory Clause Definition: The clause has a subject + verb but is a dependent clause that attaches to an independent clause.

Rule: Always use a comma following an introductory clause that introduces the sentence.

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Partial List of Words That May Start Introductory Clauses
after
although
as
because
before
if
since
though
until
when
+++
Legend:

  1. Green indicates the introductory clause + comma
  2. White-on-Green indicates the subject + verb which makes this a clause

If they want to win, athletes must exercise every day.

Because he kept barking insistently, we threw the ball for Smokey.

Types of Introductory Phrases or Clauses

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Absolute Introductory Phrase/Clause Definition: Any time an absolute phrase/clause introduces a sentence.

Rule: Use a comma to separate the absolute phrase or clause from the main clause that follows.

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Legend:

  1. Blue indicates the appositive clause
  2. Purple indicates the appositive phrase
  3. Orange indicates the comma

Her mind weaker than ever, Nina forgave herself for not achieving her dreams.

The storm growing ever more furious with lightning flashing and thunder booming, Cassie sat back and rocked on the covered porch.
Still young enough to care, Jane and Martha were determined to bring down the establishment from within.
Their reputation as winners secured by victory, the New York Liberty charged into the semifinals.
The season nearly finished, Rebecca Lobo and Sophie Witherspoon emerged as true leaders.
All things being equal, the active voice tends to be correct more often than the passive on standardized tests.

Appositive Introductory Phrase/Clause Definition: Any time an appositive phrase/clause introduces a sentence.

Rule: Use a comma to separate the appositive phrase or clause from the main clause that follows.

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Legend:

  1. Blue indicates the appositive clause
  2. Purple indicates the appositive phrase
  3. Orange indicates the comma

A hot-tempered tennis player, Robbie charged the umpire and tried to crack the poor man’s skull with a racket.

A modern-day dinosaur, my 486 computer chews floppy disks as noisily as my brother does peanut brittle.

The biggest disaster area in the house, Genette’s bedroom desk is a collection of overdue library books, dirty plates, computer components, old mail, cat hair, and empty potato chip bags.

Infinitive Introductory Phrase or Clause Definition: Any time an infinitive phrase/clause introduces a sentence.

Rule: Use a comma to separate the infinitive phrase or clause from the main clause that follows.

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Legend:

  1. Blue indicates the infinitive clause
  2. Purple indicates the infinitive phrase
  3. Orange indicates the comma

To improve her English, she practiced on Paul and Marian every day.

To avoid burning another bag of popcorn, Brendan pressed his nose against the microwave door, sniffing suspiciously.

Participial Introductory Phrase or Clause Definition: Any time a participial phrase/clause introduces a sentence.

Rule: Use a comma to separate the participial phrase or clause from the main clause that follows.

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Legend:

  1. Blue indicates the participial clause
  2. Purple indicates the participial phrase
  3. Orange indicates the comma

Having said this, he left the room.

Fighting against reason, Martha decided to pull an all-nighter in hopes of passing the exam.

Getting to his feet, Paul took a threatening stance.

Prepositional Introductory Phrase or Clause Definition: Any time a prepositional phrase/clause introduces a sentence.

Rule: Use a comma to separate the prepositional phrase or clause from the main clause that follows.

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Legend:

  1. Blue indicates the prepositional clause
  2. Purple indicates the prepositional phrase
  3. Orange indicates the comma

Before he went to New York, he had spent a year in Australia.


By flashlight we made our way along the path.

By flashlight, we made our way along the path.


Without understanding why, Annie woke from a deep sleep with an urge to check on her children.

Between March and April, the little boy grew three inches.

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