Update: 2009-05-24 06:49 PM +0800

TIL

TIL English Grammar

01. Parts of Speech

c01Pts-Speech.htm

A compilation by U Kyaw Tun and staff of TIL (Tun Institute of Learning, http://www.tuninst.net ). Not for sale.

In the United States, periods and commas go inside quotation marks regardless of logic.
In the United Kingdom, Canada, and islands under the influence of British education, punctuation around quotation marks is more apt to follow logic. In American style, then, you would write: My favorite poem is Robert Frost's "Design." But in England you would write: My favorite poem is Robert Frost's "Design".

 

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A clause is a collection of grammatically-related words including a predicate and a subject (though sometimes is the subject is implied). A collection of grammatically-related words without a subject or without a predicate is called a phrase.

Clauses are the building blocks of sentences: every sentence consists of one or more clauses. This chapter will help you to recognise and (more importantly) to use different types of clauses in your own writing.

Contents of this page

0801. Recognising Clauses
0802. Independent and Dependent Clauses
0803. Clauses as Nouns, Adjectives, and Adverbs
0803.1. Noun Clause
0803.2. Adjective Clause
0803.2. Adverb Clause
0851. Review: Identifying Clauses
0852. Review: Noun, Adjective, and Adverb Clauses

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0801. Recognising Clauses

Consider these examples:

clause: cows eat grass

This example is a clause, because it contains the subject "cows" and the predicate "eat grass."

phrase: cows eating grass

What about "cows eating grass"? This noun phrase could be a subject, but it has no predicate attached to it: the adjective phrase "eating grass" show which cows the writer is referring to, but there is nothing here to show why the writer is mentioning cows in the first place.

clause: cows eating grass are visible from the highway

This is a complete clause again. The subject "cows eating grass" and the predicate "are visible from the highway" make up a complete thought.

clause: Run!

This single-word command is also a clause, even though it does seem to have a subject. With a direct command, it is not necessary to include the subject, since it is obviously the person or people you are talking to: in other words, the clause really reads "[You] run!". You should not usually use direct commands in your essays, except in quotations.

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0802. Independent and Dependent Clauses

From the way in which a clause can stand alone as a sentence or not, it can be classified either as:
1. an independent clause, or
2. a dependant clause also known as a subordinate clause.

If a clause can stand alone as a sentence, it is an independent clause, as in the following example:

Independent clause: the Prime Minister is in Ottawa

Add the conjunction "because" at the beginning, and the clause can no longer stand by itself:

Dependent clause: because the Prime Minister is in Ottawa

When clauses cannot stand alone as sentences they are called dependent clauses or subordinate clauses. Because the clause has been made subordinate by the conjunction, the conjunction is known as a subordinating conjunction.

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0803. Clauses as Nouns, Adjectives, and Adverbs

Consider the same independent clause:

Independent clause: the Prime Minister is in Ottawa

with the subordinating conjunction "when" added to the beginning:

Dependent clause: when the Prime Minister is in Ottawa

In this case, the clause could not be a sentence by itself, since the conjunction "when" suggests that the clause is providing an explanation for something else. Since this dependent clause provides the explanation, it functions just like an adverb and it is called a dependent adverb clause or simply an adverb clause. (Remember adverb clauses are always dependent clauses). Note how the clause can replace the adverb "tomorrow in the following examples:

adverb: The committee will meet tomorrow.
adverb clause: The committee will meet when the Prime Minister is in Ottawa.

Dependent clauses can stand not only for adverbs, but also for nouns and for adjectives.

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0803.1. Noun Clause

A noun clause is an entire clause which takes the place of a noun in another clause or phrase. Like a noun, a noun clause acts as the subject or object of a verb or the object of a preposition, answering the questions "who(m)?" or "what?". Consider the following examples:

noun: I know Latin.
noun clause: I know that Latin is no longer spoken as a native language.

In the first example, the noun "Latin" acts as the direct object of the verb "know". In the second example, the entire clause "that Latin ..." is the direct object.

In fact, many noun clauses are indirect questions:

noun: Their destination is unknown.
noun clause: Where they are going is unknown.

The question "Where are they going?", with a slight change in word order, becomes a noun clause when used as part of a larger unit -- like the noun "destination", the clause is the subject of the verb "is".

Here are some more examples of noun clauses:

about what you bought at the mall

This noun clause is the object of the preposition "about", and answers the question "about what?"

Whoever broke the vase will have to pay for it.

This noun clause is the subject of the verb "will have to pay", and answers the question "who will have to pay?"

The Toronto fans hope that the Blue Jays will win again.

This noun clause is the object of the verb "hope", and answers the question "what do the fans hope?"

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0803.2. Adjective Clause

An adjective clause is a dependent clause which takes the place of an adjective in another clause or phrase. Like an adjective, an adjective clause modifies a noun or pronoun, answering questions like "which?" or "what kind of?" Consider the following examples:

Adjective: the red coat
Adjective clause: the coat which I bought yesterday

Like the word "red" in the first example, the dependent clause "which I bought yesterday" in the second example modifies the noun "coat". Note that an adjective clause usually comes after what it modifies, while an adjective usually comes before.

In formal writing, an adjective clause begins with the relative pronouns "who(m)", "that", or "which". In informal writing or speech, you may leave out the relative pronoun when it is not the subject of the adjective clause, but you should usually include the relative pronoun in formal, academic writing:

informal: The books people read were mainly religious.
formal: The books that people read were mainly religious.

informal: Some firefighters never meet the people they save.
formal: Some firefighters never meet the people whom they save.

Here are some more examples of adjective clauses:

the meat which they ate was tainted

This clause modifies the noun "meat" and answers the question "which meat?".
Editor's note: When food (such as meat) is deliberately added with something else (such as inferior or cheaper kind of meat), we say "the food has been adulterated". There was a case in Canada (in year 2001) where a butcher was mixing "old" ground beef with "fresh" and selling as "fresh". Such a case is "meat that was adulterated". However, if the meat has become unwholesome due to a natural process (such as being left for a long time in the freezer, or left outside in ordinary temperature), we say "meat that was tainted".

about the movie which made him cry

This clause modifies the noun "movie" and answers the question "which movie?".

they are searching for the one who borrowed the book

The clause modifies the pronoun "one" and answers the question "which one?".

Did I tell you about the author whom I met?

The clause modifies the noun "author" and answers the question "which author?".

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0803.2. Adverb Clause

An adverb clause is a dependent clause which takes the place of an adverb in another clause or phrase. An adverb clause answers questions such as "when?", "where?", "why?", "with what goal/result?", and "under what conditions?".

Note how an adverb clause can replace an adverb in the following example:

adverb: The premier gave a speech here.
adverb clause: The premier gave a speech where the workers were striking.

Usually, a subordinating conjunction like "because", "when(ever)", "where(ever)", "since", "after", and "so that", will introduce an adverb clause. Note that a dependent adverb clause can never stand alone as a complete sentence:

independent clause: they left the locker room
dependent adverb clause: after they left the locker room

The first example can easily stand alone as a sentence, but the second cannot -- the reader will ask what happened "after they left the locker room". Here are some more examples of adverb clauses expressing the relationships of cause, effect, space, time, and condition:

cause (not "clause"):
Hamlet wanted to kill his uncle because the uncle had murdered Hamlet's father.

The adverb clause answers the question "why?".

effect
Hamlet wanted to kill his uncle so that his father's murder would be avenged.

The adverb clause answers the question "with what goal/result?".

time
After Hamlet's uncle Claudius married Hamlet's mother, Hamlet wanted to kill him.

The adverb clause answers the question "when?". Note the change in word order -- an adverb clause can often appear either before or after the main part of the sentence.

place
Where the whole Danish court was assembled, Hamlet ordered a play in an attempt to prove his uncle's guilt.

The adverb clause answers the question "where?".

condition
If the British co-operate, the Europeans may achieve monetary union.

The adverb clause answers the question "under what conditions?".

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0851. Review: Identifying Clauses

Some of the following passages are clauses, with a predicate (and usually, a subject), while others are simply phrases. See if you can spot the clauses. Remember: a phrase will not have a subject and a predicate of its own.

01.Question:  I love to eat Montréal bagels

02. Question: the big, bad wolf

03. Question: rode the bus to Halifax

04. Question: they were thinking about the language issue

05. Question: the student considering everything written on this subject

06. Question: stay on the Trans-Canada highway through British Columbia

07. Question: after the morning rush hour

08. Question: they hate politics

09. Question: because of the coat which I bought in the West Edmonton Mall

10. Question: when the train arrived at the station


Answers to Review questions

01. Question:
      I love to eat Montréal bagels
Answer: The answer clause is correct.
Explanation: This is a clause because it contains the subject "I" and the predicate "love to eat Montréal bagels".

02. Question:
      the big, bad wolf
Answer: The answer phrase is correct.
Explanation: This passage names the wolf, but does not tell the reader what the wolf is doing or what state the wolf is in, since it does not have a predicate.

03. Question:
      rode the bus to Halifax
Answer: The answer phrase is correct.
Explanation: Who "rode the bus to Halifax"? This passage has a predicate, but no subject.

04. Question:
      they were thinking about the language issue
Answer: The answer clause is correct.
Explanation: This passage is clearly a clause, since it expresses a grammatically-complete thought -- it has the pronoun "they" acting as its subject and the verb phrase "were thinking about the language issue" acting as its predicate.

05. Question:
      the student considering everything written on this subject
Answer: The answer phrase is correct.
Explanation: Both the word "considering" and the word "written" are participles made out of verbs ("consider" and "write"); in this passage, however, they are acting not as verbs, but as adjectives -- "considering" modifies the noun "student", while "written" modifies the pronoun "everything". Since there is no verb acting as a predicate, this is simply a phrase.

06. Question:
      stay on the Trans-Canada highway through British Columbia
Answer: The answer clause is correct.
Explanation: It is easy to see why you might have thought this passage was a phrase -- after all, it has no visible subject. Remember that a direct command has the implied subject "you", and that it is still a clause

07. Question:
      after the morning rush hour
Answer: The answer phrase is correct.
Explanation: Who did what after the morning rush hour? This passage consists only of the preposition "after" followed by its object; with no subject and no predicate, this passage must be a phrase.

08. Question:
      they hate politics
Answer: The answer clause is correct.
Explanation: There is nothing missing here -- the pronoun "they" tells you who hates politics, and the predicate "hate politics" tells you what they do. Since there is a subject and a predicate, the passage is a clause

09. Question:
      because of the coat which I bought in the West Edmonton Mall
Answer: The answer phrase is correct.
Explanation: What happened because of the coat? This is a very difficult passage -- "which I bought in the West Edmonton Mall" is a clause, with the subject "I" and the simple predicate "bought", but that clause simply modifies the noun "coat", which is the object of the preposition "because of". A phrase is still a phrase, even if it has a clause inside

10. Question:
      when the train arrived at the station
Answer: The answer clause is correct.
Explanation: You might have thought that this is a phrase because it is not a complete sentence; however, it does contain a subject ("the train") and a predicate ("arrived at the station") -- the subordinating conjunction "when" simply shows that it is dependent on something else in the sentence

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0852. Review: Noun, Adjective, and Adverb Clauses

See if you can determine the function of the hilighted dependent clause in each of the following passages:
a. noun clause     b. adjective clause     c. adverb clause

Remember that:
• a noun clause answers questions like "who(m)?" or "what?";
• an adjective clause answers questions like "which (one)?"; and
• an adverb clause answers questions like "when?", "where?'', "when?", "why?", "with what goal/result?", and "under what conditions?".

01. Question:
       Some people buy expensive cars simply because they can.

02. Question:
      Many people hope that Canada can resolve its economic problems.

03. Question:
      The bankers need to know what they should do.

04. Question:
      Which one is the person who stole your car?

05. Question:
      Wherever there is a large American city
, there will be poverty.

06. Question:
      The books which the professor assigned were very expensive.

07. Question:
      Canada might give up its marketing boards if the European Community gives up its grain subsidies.

08. Question:
      That is the place where Wolfe's and Montcalm's armies fought.

09. Question:
      Unless the crown can make a better case
, the accused murderer will not be convicted.

10. Question:
      It is important to ask whether the wedding is formal or semi-formal.


Answers to Review questions

01. Question:
      Some people buy expensive cars simply because they can.
Answer: The answer adverb clause is correct.
Explanation: This clause answers the question "why", showing cause, so it is an adverb clause. It does not act as a subject or object, and it does not modify a noun or pronoun.

02. Question:
      Many people hope that Canada can resolve its economic problems.
Answer: The answer noun clause is correct.
Explanation: The clause answers the question "what?", and acts as the direct object of the verb "hope".

03. Question:
      The bankers need to know what they should do.
Answer: The answer noun clause is correct.
Explanation: This clause does not tell you which bankers need to know, but rather, it tells you what they need to know -- since it answers the question "what?" (and acts as the direct object of "to know"), it is a noun clause.

04. Question:
      Which one is the person who stole your car?
Answer: The answer adjective clause is correct.
Explanation: The relative pronoun "who" might have confused you here; however, the clause itself does not answer the question "who?", but the question "which person?", showing that it modifies the noun "person" and is acting as an adjective clause.

05. Question:
      Wherever there is a large American city
, there will be poverty
Answer: The answer adverb clause is correct.
Explanation: This clause tells where poverty will exist, and specifying a location is the function of an adverb or (in this case) of an adverb clause.

06. Question:
      The books which the professor assigned were very expensive.
Answer: The answer adjective clause is correct.
Explanation: This clause modifies the noun "books", and modifying a noun or pronoun is the function of an adjective or (in this case) of an adjective clause.

07. Question:
      Canada might give up its marketing boards if the European Community gives up its grain subsidies.
Answer: The answer adverb clause is correct.
Explanation: This clause provides the conditions under which Canada might give up its marketing boards, and it is an adverb or an adverb clause which answers the question "under what conditions?".
Editor's note: Notice how Explanation: is ended - a question mark and a period. That is allowed because of the double quote in between.

08. Question:
      That is the place where Wolfe's and Montcalm's armies fought.
Answer: The answer adjective clause is correct.
Explanation: This is a very tricky example, and the subordinating conjunction "where" could have fooled you. In fact, the clause does not answer the adverb question "where?", but the adjective question "which place?". This is an adjective clause, modifying the noun "place".

09. Question:
      Unless the crown can make a better case
, the accused murderer will not be convicted.
Answer: The answer adverb clause is correct.
Explanation: This clause provides the conditions under which the accused murderer will not be convicted, so it must be an adverb clause.

10. Question:
      It is important to ask whether the wedding is formal or semi-formal.
Answer: The answer noun clause is correct.
Explanation: This clause is the direct object of the infinitive "to ask", answering the question "what is it important to ask?".

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