A clause is a group of related words that contains at a minimum a subject and verb.
Clause, as opposed to phrases, will stand on their own as a complete idea.
- Clause: A group of related words containing a subject and verb.
- Phrase: A word or group of related words lacking a subject and verb.
Look at some examples of clauses:
- Once I find the axe . . . (dependent)
- The bunny found shelter under the tree. (independent)
- Although you lost the keys . . . (dependent)
- I cannot believe you were right! (independent)
Clauses that stand on their own as a complete thought are Independent Clauses. Here is an independent clause:
The tutor discussed the paper with the student.
Restrictive or non-restrictive
When you use an adjective subordinate clause, you will need to decide whether it is a:
- or non-restrictive
adjective subordinate clause.
|Restrictive||no comma(s)||when you needs to distinguish the noun from the others. narrows down all of the possibilities of the noun into one specific reference|
|Non-restrictive||comma(s)||it just adds information about the noun, does not restrict, or limit, the noun to a particular specific reference|
In many cases, you will find that:
- which will signal a non-restrictive clause (comma(s) required)
- will signal a restrictive clause (no comma(s) needed).
However, this is not always the case. If you get used to thinking through the difference, you will know when to use a comma and when not to.
You need to decide whether or not the description is essential to distinguishing the noun from other nouns or not. Look at some examples:
- Suzanne chose to dance with the guy who was wearing a blue bandana.
“who was wearing a blue bandana” is restrictive because the writer needs to distinguish the guy from the other people at the dance.)
- Suzanne chose to dance with the guy wearing a blue bandana, which was faded.
“which was faded” is non-restrictive because the writer is merely adding information about the bandana.
The distinction between restrictive and non-restrictive clauses is less important while you are drafting, but it is quite important during the editing stage of the writing process.
Adverb Subordinate Clauses require a comma if they are placed before the main clause. You are free to place an adverb subordinate clause before or after the main clause. Here are some examples:
- Because it might rain, I will bring an umbrella to the festival. (comma)
- I will bring an umbrella to the festival because it might rain. (no comma)
The rule is simply to place a comma after the clause if it precedes the main sentence, but generally to omit the comma if it appears after the main sentence.
To review, there are two rules to remember when punctuating adverb subordinate clauses:
- If the clause is at the beginning of the sentence, use a comma after the clause.
- If the clause is at the end of the sentence, you will generally not use a comma.
There is, however, an exception to rule #2: If the clause comes at the end of the sentence and is contrasting or contradictory, then you insert a comma. For example:
- He cleaned the kitchen, whereas his roommate sat on the couch eating pizza.
In this case, you use a comma because the clause comes at the end of the sentence and is also a contradictory idea.
Which of the versions of sentences above do you prefer? Which placement (before or after) gets your attention and produces a strong sentence? Your answers to these questions will help you to begin to think about your writing style.
For greater emphasis, many writers will place adverb subordinate clauses at the beginning of their sentences rather than after. This is also true of many arguments when writers qualify their position before stating their main argument.