Independent Clauses, Dependent Clauses & Phrases

What are Clauses & Phrases?

Clauses & Phrases are the building blocks of a sentence in Standard Written English.

Related Concepts: Modifiers, Modification


A clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb.

Clauses are divided into

  1. Independent Clauses
  2. Dependent Clauses.

Independent Clauses

An independent clause has a subject and a predicate and can stand on its own as a complete sentence. 

Ex: I arrived late. The bus ride was long.

Dependent Clauses

Dependent clauses are sentences with a subject and a verb, but they are still dependent on more words to form a complete sentence. Often, this is because they have an extra word or phrase attached to them: 

“Because I stood up. “

In this example, I need the rest of the thought here. I do have a subject “I” and a verb “stood up” but I also have a “because,” implying that there is more to the thought—so it is a dependent clause.


A phrase is a group of words that does not have a subject and a verb. 

On the edge, before class, the open door, that awesome hand lotion on the shelf

Each of these phrases is more than one word, but they are not clauses because they do not contain subjects and verbs. They are building blocks of sentences, but they are not enough on their own—they need more in order to form a complete sentence.


Identify the following as a phrase or a clause. 

  1. standing on your head
  2. you should wear a helmet
  3. the best sunscreen I’ve ever used
  4. the hot summer sun beats down
  5. the children laugh

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