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Sentences
  Making longer sentences
    Clauses
    Phrases

  Placing the parts of a sentence

  How using short or longer   sentences affects your work
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  How using personal or   impersonal affects your work

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Sentences - Making longer sentences - Clauses

What is a clause?

A clause is a group of words with at least a subject and a verb which agrees with it.

A simple sentence has one clause. It ends with a full stop.

Example
It is an important question.
It is the subject, is is the verb, and the clause is a sentence because it ends with a full stop.

A longer sentence has more than one clause.

Example
It is an important question, and one which needs answering quickly.
Here there are two clauses, separated by a comma and linked by and.

There are two sorts of clauses (this is as complex as we get here!).

You need to know this because you link them differently to make longer sentences. The following explains this.

See How using short or longer sentences affects your work in the menu

A clause which could stand alone as a sentence

One type of clause can stand alone as a sentence (i.e. it makes sense on its own), although it does not have to.

Any sentence must have at least one such clause, and can have more than one. To be in the same sentence, these clauses must be about the same idea.

Example
It is an important question.
This is a clause which can (and does) stand alone.
Linking clauses which could stand alone

You can link clauses which could stand alone by:

  • using these linking words - for, and, not, but, or, yet, so (Ashima and Hogue 1999 pp155-156), or words like therefore, however, meanwhile
  • using a semicolon (;).
Example
The dog ate the bone and the cat drank the cream.
The dog ate the bone; the cat drank the cream.

They could be separate simple sentences.
The dog ate the bone. The cat drank the cream.

There may be other words between two such clauses but this makes no difference to how you link them.

Example
Here the clauses are underlined and the linking word is highlighted. Both clauses could stand alone.

Many students are part-time or distance learners, in full-time employment, and the distinction between full and part-time is no longer clear.

What do people do wrong?

People sometimes incorrectly join two clauses which could stand alone with a comma, but without a linking word.

If you join them with a comma they must have a linking word. If there is no linking word you use a semicolon between them.

Example
This is correct.
Students like to have a range of social and sports facilities; when they apply to university they may consider the type of facilities available.

This is correct.
Students like to have a range of social and sports facilities, and when they apply to university they may consider the type of facilities available.

This is not correct.
*Students like to have a range of social and sports facilities, when they apply to university they may consider the type of facilities available.

A clause which depends on something else in the sentence

You can have a clause which depends on something else in the sentence, and does not make sense on its own.

Example

It is an important and timely question, which needs a decisive and quick answer.

The above sentence has two clauses divided by a comma. The first clause could stand alone. The underlined clause could not stand alone.

* Which needs a decisive and quick answer.
If this were written, the reader would ask "What needs an answer?" The clause only exists in relationship to 'question'.

Linking clauses which depend on something else in the sentence

You can link these sorts of clauses to the rest of the sentence by words such as who, where, why, which, that, with - words which refer to something in the rest of the sentence.

You can also use linking words which show the following.
Time e.g. when, before
Contrast e.g. although
Condition e.g. if, unless
Cause/effect e.g. because, since
Straugh (1998 p236)

Example
Here the clauses which depend on something else in the sentence are underlined and the linking words are highlighted.

Cities, which are often congested, need to have good public transport systems.

Good public transport systems are important in cities, as they relieve the congestion caused by cars.

 

 

© Learning & Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University 2004