Difference between Phrase and Clause

Difference between Phrase and Clause

Clause and phrase are two important terms in English grammar. Clause and phrase are parts of a sentence.

A clause is a group of words that consists of a subject and a verb.

He laughed.
The guests arrived.

A phrase is a group of words that does not consist of a subject and a verb.

Examples: on a table, under the tree, near the wall, on the roof, at the door.

Both the clause and the phrase may exist within a sentence. For instance, read the following sentence:
Example:    He is sleeping on the bed.

The first part of the sentence “He is sleeping” is a clause because it has a subject and a verb. On the other hand, the remaining part of sentence, ‘on the bed’ is a phrase because it lacks both the subject and the verb.

Read the following examples. The underlined part of each sentence is a phrase. Non-underlined part of each sentence is a clause:

  • She is standing on the roof.
  • The cat is sleeping under the table.
  • She is drawing a map on the wall.
  • She is waiting at the door.

Understanding the conceptual difference in clause and phrase

A clause has both subject and object. It can stand alone as a complete sentence because it gives a complete meaning. For instance in the above example the clause ‘He is sleeping’ can alone stand as a sentence as it gives a complete meaning to the reader.

On the hand, a phrase cannot stand alone as a complete sentence because it does not give a complete meaning. For instance, in the above sentence ‘on the bed’ cannot stand as alone sentence as it does not give a complete meaning. The each word of phrase has a meaning but the phrase collectively does not make a complete sense like a sentence.  The purpose of phrase is to complement the overall structure of a sentence.

A simple sentence can also be called one clause. For instance, ‘He laughed’ is a sentence, but it is also one clause. Some sentence may have more than one clause, read the following example:

  • I waited for him but he didn’t come.              (two clause)
  • I like Biology but my brother likes Physics because he wants to become an engineer. (three clauses)

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