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Phrases and Clauses: Are They The Same Thing?

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Why noses run and feet smell in English language? A ‘fat chance’ and a ‘slim chance’ mean the same in the English language. English is indeed a language of mystery.  From tricky spelling rules to bizarre grammatical norms, there are enough reasons that make English language quite a struggle for students. Adding to this confusion is the battle of phrase vs clause. Therefore, here I am writing a blog to clarify the difference between a phrase and a clause to you.

Phrase vs Clauses: Here Are All the Differences That You Must Know   

Why should you bother yourself with the clause vs phrase debate? It’s not only about securing a good grade in your English paper. It is also about the way you convey your thoughts to your loved ones. Did you ever write a letter to a friend? Have you ever let someone know that you love them through letters? Well, then you have most likely written the letter with the help of clauses and phrases.

What Is A Clause In Grammar?

Clauses are basically a group of words that consists of a verb and a subject. It is the smallest grammatical unit used by people to express their thoughts. In a clause, the subject is the entity that is ‘doing’ the action of the sentence. The verb is the action that the subject completes in the sentence. All in all, a clause creates a complete thought. It conveys an idea or a statement that can stand alone.

In short,

  • Subject + verb = Complete thought
  • Herald talks. = Complete thought.
  • I dance. = Complete thought.

What is a phrase in grammar?

The phrase is a collection of words that stand together as one unit. It is usually used as a part of the clause or sentence. Unlike clauses, it does not consist of a verb and a subject. Also, it is solely not sufficient to convey complete thoughts. This is exactly where a phrase contradicts a clause.


  • After the supper
  • The nasty neighbour
  • Were waiting for the movie

Comparing the examples of phrases with that of the clauses, we can see that the former does not contain any subject doing an action. However, clauses consist of both the subject as well as the verb. Remember that a phrase is always more than a word.   

What are the different types of phrases and clauses?

Phrases begin with a single word and then gradually develops into a compound sentence. A clause is an integral part of a sentence. It does need the support of any other element to express a complete thought. Now let’s take a look at the different types of phrases and clauses.

The Different Types of Clauses

There are two primary types of clauses available in English language. The two main types of clauses are an Independent Clause and a Dependent Clause.

Independent Clause: An Overview

As the name suggests, this one can stand alone in a sentence. With a subject and a verb, an independent clause is the smallest unit of grammar. It may also consist of a verb predicate and modifiers.

Some examples (Italics words) of independent clauses are as follows:

  • Derek waits at the station for his friend every day at the same time.
  • My neighbour enjoys sitting by the fireplace with her dog.
  • My best friend speaks loudly.
  • I eat bananas in the middle of the night.

Dependent Clause: An Overview

Unlike independent clauses, dependent clauses are unable to stand alone in a sentence. It consists of a subject and a verb. It has to merge with an independent clause to be grammatically correct and convey a complete thought. Dependent clauses consist of adverb clauses, noun clauses and adjective clauses.

Some examples of dependent clauses are as follows:

  • As if Susan know what was going to occur (adverb clauses)
  • When the Prime Minister arrives (adverb clauses)
  • Which is located in Italy (adjective clauses)
  • Who live by the ocean (adjective clauses)
  • Who let the dog out of the bag (noun clauses)
  • Whatever makes you relax (noun clauses)

The Different Types Of Phrases

Any grouping of words can be termed as phrases. It is a basic unit of grammar that helps us make full, meaningful sentences. The different types of phrase are noun phrases, verb phrases, infinitive phrases, appositive phrase, participle phrases and prepositional phrases.

Noun phrases: Definition and Examples

The noun phrase comprises of a noun and different modifiers.


  • The glistening snow
  • The yellow house
  • A skateboard
  • The little boy

Verb phrases: Definition and Examples

The verb phrase consists of different modifiers and a verb.


  • Were waiting for the web series
  • Felt a prick on my arm
  • Went crying all along
  • You mustn’t eat that!

Infinitive phrases: Definition and Examples

These start with a verb infinitive and comprises of modifiers.


  • To run out of water
  • To visit the graveyard
  • To know Mr Wallace
  • To fix the automobile

Appositive phrase: Definition and Examples

This is basically a noun phrase which usually renames other nouns in the sentences.


  • Hugo, the dog that sits at the neighbourhood, usually likes to go for walks.
  • The pianist Co-Yo- Ma plays a brilliant instrument all over the world.
  • The flower, a blackish red, was beautiful.
  • The curtains were made out of lace, a dainty and delicate fabric.

Participle phrase: Definition and Examples

These types of phrases begin with a past participle or –ed or with a present participle or –ing.


  • Playing and giggling in the park
  • Dehydrated and fatigued in the desert
  • Singing and dancing in the background
  • Waiting at the station

Prepositional phrase: Definition and Examples

These are a group of words that consist of a noun and a preposition.


  • Before school
  • Under the stairs
  • During Christmas
  • Past midnight

Difference between clauses and phrases in a single sentence  

Are you still confused with the difference between the two? Then here is another example to help you understand the difference better.

He is sleeping on the mattress.

Take the above sentence, for example. The first part of the sentence is ‘he is sleeping.’ It makes perfect sense even if I don’t use the second part of the sentence, right? This is the clause.

Now consider the rest of the sentence which is ‘on the mattress.’ It doesn’t make any sense if you use it alone without the first part. This is the phrase.

A phrase needs a clause to convey a complete meaningful thought. However, a clause doesn’t need anything else. It can convey a meaningful sentence on its own.

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Oliver Smith

Hi, I am Oliver Smith, a certified Health Communication Specialist. I appreciate you for stopping by. Though I opted for Bio as a major subject at university, I always had a flair for writing ever since my teenage days. I have a passion for English language and specialize in English essay writing. Working as an essay expert at, I have helped several students get a step closer to their academic goals. When I am not working or helping a student out, you can probably find me sailing to places with my wife and my cute little kid. 

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