English Basics

Difference between Phrase and Clause

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.

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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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