What is a Clause?

Understanding what a clause is helps prevent comma splices.  There are three types of clauses: main clause, subordinate clause, relative clause.

According to the Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, a clause is a group of words containing a subject and verb, usually forming part of a compound or complex sentence.

Here is an outline written by Professor Kate Gray at Lynchburg College. This outline will help you understand the three types of clauses.

Main Clause (MC)= Subject + Verb

  • Options for joining two MCs:
    • Use a comma with a co-ordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet)
    • Use a semi-colon (;)
    • Use a semi-colon and a conjunctive adverb (however, moreover, nevertheless, consequently,  thus)  
    • Make two sentences (.)
    • Subordinate one clause

Subordinate Clauses (SC) = Subordination conjunction + Subject + Verb

  • Subordinating Conjunctions: after, as, as if, as soon as, since, until, when, whenever, while, where, because, before, whereas, so that, in order that, although, if, even though, even if, provided that, unless, once, rather than.

Relative Clause (RC) = Relative pronoun + Subject + Verb

  • Relative Pronouns: who, whom, whose, which, that, what, whatever, who, whoever.

Practice Exercises:

Now you can follow this pattern activity to create your own compound sentences.   Create your own sentences with each sentence pattern structure given below:

Example:  SC MC RC

While I was in Virginia (SC), I went to my parents' house (MC), which is in Richmond (RC).

  1. SC MC MC
  2. RC MC
  3. SC MC
  4. SC MC RC
  5. MC MC RC

Created by Dana Jones based on information by Professor Kate Gray.