Clauses: Types of clauses in English

Your writings can’t make sense without clauses in English. Why am I saying that? Going forward in the post, you will understand why clauses are important for your writing to make sense.

What is a clause in English?

Clause definition: a clause in English is a group of words that has a subject-verb combination. It means that it has the presence of both the subject and the verb.


  • I finished the task last night.
  • I love my students.
  • Jon has been learning English for 5 years.
  • You are my love.
  • The ending of the movie was boring.
  • You can do whatever you want to do.

All these clauses have a subject and a verb and make complete sense. So, does it mean that all clauses make perfect sense? Don’t jump on this conclusion. Let’s look at some more examples of clauses.

  • When I got home.
  • If you do what you love.
  • Until she comes back.
  • Whether you like it or not.

Do these clauses make clear sense? They don’t. These clauses depend on something.

  • What happened when I got home?
  • What happens when you do what you love?
  • What to do until she comes back?

It is, now, clear that all clauses don’t make sense. But which clauses do and which don’t? For that, we must master types of clauses

Types of clauses in English
Types of clauses in English

Types of clauses in English

There are two types of clauses in English:

  1. Independent clauses
  2. Dependent clauses

Independent clause

A clause that gives a complete meaning on its own is called an independent clause. It does not depend on anything, and this is why it’s called an independent clause. An independent clause is a complete sentence.


  • Most people don’t attain their goals.
  • Ashish has a desire to travel the world.
  • He wants to buy a car for his father.
  • I am working on a post right now.
  • Could you sit on that seat?
  • Were you nervous before the interview?

If you want to have multiple independent clauses in a sentence, use coordinating conjunctions to bring them together.

Coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (FANBOYS)

  • He won’t be coming to the party, for he is busy.
  • I love her a lot, and I can do anything for her.
  • He was terrible in that match, but I still believe in him.
  • Take the offer, or get out of here.
  • We were in huge debt, so we had to sell our house.

NOTE: When you add two independent clauses using a coordinating conjunction, use a comma before the conjunction.

Dependent clause

A clause that does not give a complete meaning and is dependent on an independent clause is called a dependent clause. Dependent clauses start with subordinating conjunctions. They are also known as subordinate clauses as they start with a subordinating conjunction.

Subordinating conjunctions: until, unless, if, when, why, where, after, before, although, as, as though, though, as soon as, because, before, by the time, even if, even though, every time, In case, now that, since, so that, the first time, whenever, whether, etc.


  • Until I come back.
  • Because she had a fever.
  • By the time I finish off the bottle.
  • When Max is upset.
  • Though he was really hurt.
  • Whether you like it or not.

See, these clauses are not giving a complete meaning. They leave us with the question “then what.” Dependent clauses are joined with independent clauses to render a complete meaning.

Let’s join these dependent clauses with some independent clauses.

  • Don’t move out of the house until I come back.
  • She could not come to the party because she had a fever.
  • By the time I finish off the bottle, the party would be over.
  • When Max is upset, he does not talk to people.
  • Though he was really hurt, he finished the fight.
  • Whether you like it or not, they are going to do it.

NOTE: a combination of an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses is called a complex sentence. When it starts with a dependent clause, use a comma after it, but when it starts with an independent clause, we don’t use a comma.

Types of dependent clauses

  1. Noun clauses
  2. Adjective clauses
  3. Adverb clauses

Noun clause

A noun clause is a dependent clause that functions as a noun in a sentence. Like a noun or a noun phrase, a noun clause also works as a noun:

  1. As the subject
  2. As the object of the main verb
  3. As the object of a preposition
  4. Subject complement
  5. Object complement

Noun clauses as the subject

Examples of noun clauses as the subject:

  • Whatever you are eating looks appealing.
  • Where we went to last year was a beautiful place.
  • Whoever made this building is a genius.
  • Why he broke up with that girl is still a mystery to me.

NOTE: replace a noun clause with a pronoun or a noun to check if it is a noun clause.

  • It looks appealing.
  • The pizza looks appealing.
  • That was a beautiful place.
  • London was a beautiful place.
  • He is a genius.
  • Ashish is a genius.
  • That is still a mystery to me.
  • Your breakup is still a mystery to me.

Like a noun or a noun phrase, a noun clause also works as the subject of a sentence. Noun clauses start with the following subordinating conjunctions:

That, which, who, whom, whoever, whomsoever, what, whatever, when, whenever, where, wherever, how, however, why, whether, etc.

Noun clauses as the object of the verb

A noun clause can also function as the object of a verb. Let’s take some examples of noun clauses as the object of an action verb:

  • I don’t know what you like.
  • She doesn’t understand what I am doing.
  • Do you like whom I love?
  • He loves where he lives.
  • We got her what she wanted.

NOTE: a sentence must have a transitive verb in order to have a direct object.

Noun clauses as the object of a preposition

When noun clauses function as the object of a preposition, they come right after the preposition. Let’s take some examples:

  • I am thinking about what I should do now.
  • She has feelings for whom we met last night in the club.
  • We are going to where we went to last week.
  • I don’t believe in what I haven’t experienced.
  • Don’t get into what you don’t know a thing about.

Noun clauses as the subject complement

Subject complement definition: a subject complement is a word or a group of words that either renames a subject or modifies it. A noun renames it, and an adjective modifies it.

Now, let’s take some examples of noun clauses as the subject complement:

  • Your real friends are who help you achieve your goals. (Your real friends = who help you achieve your goals)
  • My favorite people are whom I am with right now.
  • Happiness is what’s inside the bag.
  • His problem was that he didn’t listen to anyone.

In the above examples, the noun clauses are giving a new name to the subject or describing it with a new name.

Noun clauses as the object complement

Object complement definition: an object complement is a word or a group of words (a phrase or a clause) that either renames the direct object or modifies it. A noun renames it, and an adjective modifies it.

Now, let’s take some examples of noun clauses as the object complement:

  • You can call me whatever you want.
  • They elected me what I wanted to be.
  • The company will announce the winner whoever finishes the task first.

Adjective clause

An adjective clause is a dependent clause that works as an adjective. It comes right after the noun or the pronoun it modifies. An adjective clause starts with the following subordinating conjunctions (relative pronouns): who, whom, whose, that, which, why, where, and when.


  • The guy who lives next to my place is a famous actor.
  • I love the book that you gifted me on my birthday.
  • Do you have anything that I can read on the plane?
  • The man whose daughter you have kidnapped is a gangster.
  • Rajiv Chowk, which is one of the most famous metro stations in Delhi, is the place where I used to meet her.
  • Do you still remember the time when we would bunk classes to play games?
  • Most people don’t know the reason why they do what they do.

The adjective clauses are colored red, and the nouns or pronouns they are modifying are in bold.

NOTE: WHICH is used at the beginning of an adjective clause to give non-essential information and is offset using commas.

Types of adjective clauses

There are two types of adjective clauses based on the information they give:

  1. Essential adjective clauses
  2. Nonessential adjective clauses

Essential adjective clause

Essential adjective clauses are dependent clauses that modify a noun or a pronoun with essential or defining information. The noun or the pronoun they identify are not proper or specific.

Essential adjective clauses are also called defining adjective clauses.


  • Do you know anyone who can teach me how to fight?
  • People who/that know how to control the mind do something great.
  • We are in search of a place where we can open our academy.
  • I know the reason why she broke up with you.

Nonessential adjective clause

Nonessential adjective clauses are dependent clauses that modify a noun or a pronoun with nonessential or non defining information. The noun or the pronoun they identify are proper (already identified).

Nonessential adjective clauses are also called non defining adjective clauses.

  • Last year, we went on a trip to Bali, which is a beautiful place.
  • Gary, who is a great human being, is coming to India soon.
  • Do you even know Jon, whose brother you beat up last night?

NOTE: WHO can be used to give essential and nonessential information, and WHICH can’t be used to give essential information.

Adverb clause

An adverb clause is a dependent clause that works as an adverb in a sentence. It modifies the main verb and tells us WHY, WHEN, WHERE, and HOW an action happens. Since it is a dependent clause, it starts with a subordinating conjunction.


  • He left the job as he was unhappy with the company’s new policies.
    (The adverb clause answers WHY the action happened.)
  • They will come and meet us where we used to party.
    (The adverb clause answers WHERE the action will happen.)
  • You can watch TV after you finish the food.
    (The adverb clause answers WHEN the action can happen.)
  • They were kissing in the park as if nobody was there.
    (The adverb clause answers HOW the action was happening.)

Here’s a list of subordinating conjunctions that are used in adverb clauses when they answer the following questions:

HOWas if, provided, like
WHYsince, as, because, so, because of, now that, given that, so that
WHENwhen, whenever, after, before, since, until, while, as soon as, by the time, once
WHEREwhere, anywhere, everywhere
Types of adverb clauses

Types of adverb clauses

  1. Adverb clause of place
  2. Adverb clause of time
  3. Adverb clause of reason/purpose
  4. Adverb clause of contrast
  5. Adverb clause of condition

Adverb clause of place

An adverb clause of place answers the question WHY; it tells us the place of an action.

Conjunctions used: where, anywhere, everywhere


  • He will meet us where we used to party back in the days.
  • I see you everywhere I go.
  • It’s my house. You can sleep anywhere you want.

Adverb clause of time

An adverb clause of time modifies a verb and tells us WHEN it takes place.

Conjunctions used: After, before, until, by the time, as soon as, when, whenever, since


  • I will call you after the meeting gets over.
  • Everyone started crying as soon as I gave my resignation.

Adverb clause of reason/purpose

An adverb clause of reason/purpose modifies a verb and tells us WHY the action happens. It tells us the reason or the purpose of the action.

Conjunctions used: Because, since, as, so, so that, that


  • Jon quit the job because he was not happy with his salary.
  • Since it was pouring down rain, we did not move out.
  • He is working day and night so that his family can live happily.

Adverb clause of contrast

An adverb clause of contrast modifies a verb by giving contrasting information.

Conjunctions used: Though, although, even though


  • Though he had a high fever, he continued working.
  • The beggar gave me the only burger he had although he was hungry.

Adverb clause of condition

An adverb clause of condition modifies a verb by telling in what condition it happens.

Conjunctions used: If, only if, unless


  • If you apologize to her, I will let you work here.
  • They will not return your car unless you pay the loan.

Now, we know everything about a clause and its types. Feel free to share your question, doubt, or feedback in the comment section, and also, share the post with the people that need it.

For one-on-one classes, contact me at [email protected].

Here’s my youtube video that explains types of clauses in English:

Types of clauses in English

I am pretty sure you’ve mastered what clauses are and how many types of clauses are there. Feel free to empower others by sharing the post with them! See you in the next post! 😉

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Ashish found his first love—the English language—a few years back. Since then, he has been immersed in the language, breaking down the language and teaching it to passionate English learners. He has a flair for listening to the English language (podcasts, sitcoms, stories), observing the nuances, and making it easy for English learners. He is known for breaking down complex English topics and making them easy to be understood.

7 thoughts on “Clauses: Types of clauses in English”

  1. hi ashish,
    i look first time your lessons of english grammar and i was impressed for explanation about them.
    if you have time informe me how i can use what clauses

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  3. Thank you so much, Ashish. Your explanations are by far more insightful, useful and easy to understand than my teachers’.


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