Learn English – The difference between a clause and a phrase

clausesphrases

This question What is the difference between a phrase and a clause? has an answer, with no embedded examples. The link it provides is not longer active, giving a 404 page not found error. Please don't close this as a duplicate until it, at least, has some answers.

The answer to the duplicate explains the differences between clauses and phrases, but fails to answer my question, as this is the explanation given:

The short answer: clauses contain a subject and its verb, while phrases do not. Note that phrases may contain nouns and verbals, but won't have the noun as the verb's actor.

  • I do not understand what is meant by verbals and the noun as the verb's actor may as well be written in Swedish (of which I know not one word!).

So I am posting this question again, as my question has not been answered. Clauses and phrases were the only thing I failed when studying English at school and forever it has been difficult for me to grasp (I don't think it was explained well, as I had a similar problem with positive and negative numbers the same year, and went on the excel at high level maths).

I am looking to understand the very basics of what a clause is, what a phrase is, and by understanding these definitions it, hopefully, will be clear what the differences are.

Can anyone, please, explain this and provide embedded answers?

Best Answer

I was perusing the net on the hunt for reliable sources to help me understand the subjunctive mood when I came across this section and it reminded me of this question!

I'll quote it in almost its entirety because first, it's very clear and it might be of help to other users and secondly, I liked it.

Clause and Phrases

I. A phrase is a collection of words that may have nouns or verbals, but it does not have a subject doing a verb. The following are examples of phrases:

  • leaving behind the dog
  • smashing into a fence
  • before the first test
  • after the devastation
  • between ignorance and intelligence
  • broken into thousands of pieces
  • because of her glittering smile

In these examples above, you will find nouns (dog, fence, test, devastation, ignorance, intelligence, thousands, pieces). You also have some verbals (leaving, smashing), but in no case is the noun functioning as a subject doing a predicate verb. They are all phrases.

II. A clause is a collection of words that has a subject that is actively doing a verb. The following are examples of clauses:

  • since she laughs at diffident men
  • I despise individuals of low character
  • when the saints go marching in
  • Obediah Simpson is uglier than a rabid raccoon
  • because she smiled at him.

In the examples above, we find either a noun or a pronoun that is a subject (bold) attached to a predicate verb (italics) in each case:

  • since she laughs at diffident men
  • I despise individuals of low character
  • when the saints go marching in
  • Obediah Simpson is uglier than a rabid raccoon
  • because she smiled at him

III. If the clause could stand by itself, and form a complete sentence with punctuation, we call the clause an independent clause. The following are independent clauses:

  • I despise individuals of low character
  • Obediah Simpson is uglier than a rabid racoon

We could easily turn independent clauses into complete sentences by adding appropriate punctuation marks. We might say, "I despise individuals of low character." Or we might write, "Obediah Simpson is uglier than a rabid racoon!" We call them independent because these types of clauses can stand independently by themselves, without any extra words attached, and be complete sentences.

Related Question