Phrases & Clauses And why commas are important!
Word classes • Every word in the English language belongs to a “class”. It will be one of the following: • a noun • a verb • an adjective • an adverb • a pronoun • a conjunction • a determiner (occurs with a noun or noun phrase – e.g. ‘the’, ‘a’, ‘this’, ‘my’, ‘fewer’ etc.) • a preposition (usually indicates the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence – e.g. ‘on’, ‘beneath’, ‘against’, ‘during’)
Phrases or clauses • We then tend to group words into larger groups known as phrases or clauses.
Phrases • Phrase is the term used for a word or group of words, based on a particular word class. • Just as every word can be described according to its word class, so too can a sentence be divided into different types of phrase. • Three main types of phrase: • Noun phrase (built around a noun) • Verb phrase (built around a verb) • Adverbial phrase (additional info. relating to place / time / manner or frequency)
Phrases • Copy down the following sentence and for each underlined phrase, state whether it is a noun phrase, a verb phrase or an adverbial phrase: • He passed the broken window. • She dived into the pool gracefully. • They had been shaken by the noise. • Tim drove into town twice.
Phrases • He passed the broken window. NOUN • She dived into the pool gracefully. ADVERBIAL • They had been shaken by the noise. VERB • Tim drove into town twice. ADVERBIAL
Clauses • A clause contains both a verb phrase and other types of phrases. • Generally speaking the longer a sentence is, the more clauses it is bound to contain.
Types of Clauses • Single / independent clause: • A phrase or group of phrases that makes sense on its own – e.g. I lingered at the bottom of the road. • Coordinate clause: • Two clauses of equal status joined by a conjunction – e.g. I shivered in the mist and turned my collar up. • Main clause: • Like a single clause can form a sentence by itself, but has a subordinate clause added to it (see next definition). • Subordinate clause: • One that is in some way dependent on another for its meaning (also known as dependent clause). • For example: As I did every morning, I looked up at the sky.
The Rules: • A single clause can stand on its own as a sentence. • The two parts of a coordinate clause can stand on their own as sentences. • The main clause can stand on its own in a sentence. • The subordinate / dependent clause cannot stand alone as a sentence.
The Main Rule: • ALWAYS use commas to separate subordinate / dependent clauses and main clauses within a sentence!
The comma , • Commas mark smaller breaks or pauses than full stops. • They must not be used to link two independent statements that could stand alone as sentences (single or main clauses). This creates what is referred to as a COMMA SPLICE – YUCK!
How to avoid the comma splice This is a smug person. Smug people do not use comma splices! • All you have to do is introduce one of two things after your comma: a connective or a relative pronoun. • “This is not a comma splice, because the two main clauses are separated by a comma.” • “This was once a comma splice, in which the two main clauses were separated by a comma.”
commas • Commas also separate subordinate clauses from main clauses. • Subordinate clauses give extra information but aren’t necessary for the sentence to make sense: • Anthony, having run fast, was exhausted. • Commas are also used to list items. • Commas introduce and end direct speech.