When you join grammatical units and they contain a main verb, a clause is born.
Just like a phrase, a clause is meaningful and forms part of a sentence, but unlike the former, it can be a complete sentence. Thus, a clause is a simple sentence—one that contains a single thought.
- He switched off the light.
- If he cannot sing (dependent/subordinate), send him out (independent).
The examples above show that a clause can either stand alone (independent/main) or depend on another of its kind (dependent/subordinate), but both have a meaningful structure.
The main clause is that clause that makes a complete sense on its own. It doesn’t need the support of another to be meaningful, but can accommodate more information. Thus, every sentence contains at least a main clause.
- We are here to sing.
- Nothing is impossible.
- They went back to work.
- I appreciate your kind gesture.
The subordinate clause, on the other hand, depends on the main clause for its meaning.
- While he was still watching (subordinate), the assailant attacked his son (main).
- After using all the drugs (subordinate), he began to recuperate (main).
- This is the army (main), if you don’t know (subordinate).
Types of subordinate clauses: relative and conditional.
Relative clause: it connects with the main clause through word such as which, whom, whose, when, who, whom and that.
- This is the book which the teacher talked about.
- He is the veteran whose pension was stopped.
The two types of relative clauses are: restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses.
Conditional clause: this uses ‘if’ and ‘unless’ to express possibility or probability.
- If we agree on it, he would be forced to quit.
- The government will fund the project unless there are discrepancies in the report.