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Phrases vs Clauses

Sep 1, 2022

A phrase is a set of words that may contain sentence-building elements such as a noun or a verb. 


  • To my door. 
  • Of the mountains. 
  • How to do it. 

We know that a sentence is a group of words, which is complete in itself and makes complete sense and that it typically contains a subject and predicate

But what do we call the group of words that themselves contain a subject and some kind of predicate within a sentence?  

They are called clauses. 


A clause is a sentence component that includes a subject and some sort of predicate. 


  • We will start early since there will be traffic in the evening. 
  • I was taking a shower when you called. 

Clauses are of two types: Dependent clauses and independent clauses. 

Let us take a look at the different types of clauses and see how a clause is different from a phrase:


1. Independent Clauses

An independent clause, also known as the main clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a predicate that can express a complete thought. An independent clause is capable of standing alone as a sentence.  


  • He came back home in the evening. 
  • I won’t be able to get this done on time. 
  • I will be in Germany next week. 

2. Dependent Clauses

Read the sentence: 

You can call me when you are free. 

In this sentence, the main clause is You can call me, which is a complete idea and can also stand to own its own as a sentence. But the group of words that follow-when you are free– acts as a subordinate to the main clause. Though they contain a complete idea within themselves, including a subject and corresponding predicate, the presence of the conjunction when indicates that the clause cannot stand alone as a sentence. It is determined by the main clause. 

Now let us define a dependent clause: 

A dependent clause is a group of words that has a subject and a predicate but does not express a complete thought. A dependent clause is incapable of standing alone as a sentence as it always needs a main clause to depend upon. Conjunction is frequently used to identify a dependent clause. 

In fact, in many cases, the presence of a conjunction is the only thing that distinguishes an independent clause from a dependent clause. 


  • Since the exams is beginning tomorrow, I must sleep earlier tonight. 
  • The crowd went berserk when their team scored a goal. 
  • Kelly eats fried food whenever she is away from home. 


As explained earlier, a phrase is a set of words that may contain sentence-building elements such as a noun or a verb. It differs from a clause in that it may not include a subject or a predicate. A phrase adds meaning to a sentence by supplying more details regarding the subject, object, verb, or situation. A sentence is also made up of phrases, however, if you isolate a phrase from a sentence, it will not function as a whole sentence. To put it simply, clauses contain phrases, and sentences contain clauses. 

Examples of phrases: 

  • The sun rises in the east. 
  • Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. 
  • Tell me how to do it. 


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