English Clauses


This unit introduces dependent, independent, and relative clauses. The function of each type of clause and when to use them is examined here.

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There are several types of clauses in English. The first distinction is between main (“independent”) clauses and subordinate (“dependent”) clauses. Main clauses can stand alone, but subordinate ones cannot. Here are a few examples:

Main Clauses:
We like to eat pizza.
She is happy.

With Subordinate Clauses:
We like to eat pizza, even though it is not that healthy.
She is happy, despite her high-stress job.

Subordinate clauses begin with a subordinating conjunction. These include: after, although, because, before, even if, if, once, only, since, so, that, though, unless, until, when, where, and while, among others. If the subordinate clause comes first in a sentence, a comma is comes at the end of it, right before the main clause. If it comes second, a comma comes at the end of the main clause before the subordinating conjunction.

Another type of clause is the relative clause. Relative clauses are used to give additional information about a noun or pronoun in a preceding main clause. Relative pronouns serve as stand-ins for the noun or pronoun being referred to (also known as the  antecedent).

That is the same dog that I saw yesterday
Santa Fe is the city in which I live.
There is the reporter with whom I spoke earlier.

Clauses also have three different functions. They can be noun, adjective, or adverbial clauses, and can be replaced by that part of speech.

He knew what everyone was talking about. (noun clause; replace with: the latest buzz)
Bob jumped over the log without tripping over it. (adverb clause; replace with: carefully)
One of my cousins who is really adventurous climbed Denali in Alaska. (adjective clause; replace with: my cousin).

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
I can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
Spoken Production:
I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
Spoken Interaction:
I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.