Grammar: Clause versus Phrase

Posted December 24, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

While clauses and phrases might appear interchangeable, they are quite different, and it is important to understand those differences if only to know what sort of punctuation to use: commas, semicolons, or colons.

Phrase Sample:

We can meet before English, during lunch, or after school.

Clause Sample:

Later I have to clean my room, take my brother to the doctor, and take out the garbage.


A clause is a group of related words containing a subject and a verb (a predicate) and is essentially an expanded phrase. There are two primary clauses: the independent clause and the dependent clause, a.k.a., subordinate clause.

The independent clause is a complete sentence with a subject and a predicate (a.k.a., verb) that is the entire thought or action.

The dependent clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb that is not a complete sentence (think sentence fragment) and does not convey a complete thought, although it does have different functions within a sentence. Dependent clauses can be specific to different parts of grammar:

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A phrase is a group of related words that does not contain a subject-verb relationship, such as in the morning or running down the street or having grown used to this harassment. Naturally, grammarians have run amuck categorizing phrases such as:

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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.

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