Phrases and Clauses

Lesson 8.1

Phrases and Clauses

Now that the older lessons are on the FB page, they are kind of going viral and we are grateful to God for making that happen. So far, the lessons were more or less aimed at tests and questions. Today’s lesson, on the other hand, is mostly academic in nature.

By the way, today’s lesson was the first discovery we made way back in 1987. The conundrum regarding phrases and clauses is very disturbing for students and teachers alike. The clue we discovered to solve this issue was the corner stone in the date base we have today.

Thanks to that rebel of a student who challenged the difference between a phrase and a clause.
Let’s finish this now once and for all!

Phrases are group of words in a familiar order.


front of in

is not a phrase. It is only a group of words, while ‘in front of’ is a phranse because we see a familiar order here.
If a phrase contains an operative or a support, then the phrase becomes a clause.


This being my idea

is a phrase, while,

This is my idea

is a clause since it contains the operative ‘is’

If you name the first hundred numbers and end up with

‘ninety-nine and one hundred’

you have uttered a phrase with a hundred and one words in it.

But if you end up like,

‘ninety-nine and one hundred are the first hundred numbers.’

you have a clause with ‘are’ as the operative.

It is easy to change a clause into a phrase. All you have to do is, just take out the operative, and put a participle or an infinitive, or a comma in its place.
A participle is an -ing’ form or an ‘–en’ form of the verb. An infinitive is a ‘to’ form of the verb. And a comma looks very much like a comma.

Reverse this process if you want to change a phrase into a clause. Such changes are necessary to spice up your language. Varety is the spice of life, says Shakespeare.


A sentence should contain at least one clause. Most sentences contain more than one clause. The previous sentence contains only one clause.
You can count the number of clause by counting the number of operatives.
If a sentence has only one operative, it is a simple sentence, no matter how many words it has. If there are two or more than two operatives in a sentence, it could be a complex sentence. Complex sentences that use ‘for, and, neither, but, otherwise,yet’ or ‘so’ are called compound sentences. They also use co-ordinating conjunctions like ‘not only.. but also’ or ‘as soon as’ and the like. All the clauses in a compound sentences are equally important. You can change one kind of sentences into another by adding or taking away the operatives.

Say whether the following groups of words are phrases or clauses.
1. two apples, three oranges and a banana
2. he killed a snake
3. saw them going home
4. the best book in that book shop
5. going home after the accident
6. he ran to the door
7. dropping his mother’s letter
8. slowly and carefully the rabbit
9. she lowered the ladder
10. there is a beautiful flower vase
11. on a shelf in the opposite wall
12. the bear padded down
13. the leaves of the neem tree
14. blades of grass
15. a ray of sunlight bounced off the plate
16. swinging his head from left to right
17. they watched
18. when he had reached the middle
19. that their bear-chase would displease her
20. getting to the deep and dark well in the village


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