Clause, phrase and sentence


The basic unit of English grammar is the clause:

[An unlucky student almost lost a 17th century violin worth almost £200,000]

[when he left it in the waiting room of a London station.]

[William Brown inherited the 1698 Stradivarius violin from his mother]

[and had just had it valued by a London dealer at £180,000.]

Clauses are made up of phrases:

[An unlucky student] + [almost lost] + [a 17th century violin worth almost £200,000]

[when] + [he] + [left] + [it] + [in the waiting room of a London station.]

[William Brown] + [inherited] + [the 1698 Stradivarius violin] + [from his mother]

[and] [had just had it valued] + [by a London dealer] + [at £180,000.]

We can join two or more clauses together to make sentences.

An unlucky student almost lost a 17th century violin worth almost £200,000 when he left it in the waiting room of a London station.

William Brown inherited the 1698 Stradivarius violin from his mother and had just had it valued by a London dealer at £180,000.



Hello raj.kumar,

In your first example the 'which' refers to 'the basic tenets of Hinduism'. You can see this because the verb is plural (hence it refers to 'tenets'). The relative clause here is a non-defining or non-restrictive relative clause - it adds information about the tenets but does not identify which sub-group of the tenets we are describing (i.e. it does not tell us 'these tenets and not the other tenets). Non-defining relative clauses require commas, and so the comma is necessary here.

In your second example the 'which' refers to either the 'national struggle for...' or the whole sentence as it refers to 'attempt' - 'self-rule' is a state, not an attempt; 'struggle' is clearly an 'attempt'. The semantic clues here inform us, rather than the grammatical clues which we used in the first example, but which of those two possibilities is the speaker's intention is ambiguous in this sentence.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, sir. I thought that the second clause always referred to the last word of the first clause. Is it not like this? Could you please suggest me sources for the further study ?

Hello raj.kumar123,

Very often, the relative pronoun refers to the word just before it, but as is clear in this case, that is not always true. I'm sure you could find more pages on relative clauses by doing an internet search for them – I don't have any particular recommendations – and I'd also recommend paying attention as you read. At your level, seeing relative clauses in use should give you a good sense for how they work.

All the best,

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello there!

My english was really bad and i wish i can learn something great in here,

I have several statements, may i know wether they're right or not and why?

1) First act of the play introduces the cast of characters and hints at the plot.

2) It is said that Einstein felt very badly about the application of his theories to the creation of bomb.

3) The people of Western Canada have been considering to separate themselves from the provinces.

4) Not until a student has mastered algebra he can begin to understand the principles of geometry, trigonometry, and physics.

5) Considering a parliamentary system, the prime minister must be appointed to the basis of the distribution of power in the parliament.

Big thanks in advance, i was really confusing.. these are complex enough for me.

Hello muflichkamil,

Our primary purpose in the comments is to answer questions about how to use the website or about content on one of our pages. I'll answer your questions here, but please know we won't always be able to answer questions like this one which have no direct relationship with what's on the page.

1 is correct except 'first act' needs 'the' before it: 'The first act...' In 2, 'the' or 'a' is needed before 'bomb'. In 3, 'consider' normally takes a verb in -ing form after it: '...considering separating themselves...' In 4, the subject and verb need inverting: '...algebra can he begin...' In 5, use 'on' instead of 'to': 'on the basis of power'.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

I think the assertion that the following is a clause needs explanation: 'and had just had it valued by a London dealer at £180,000'. It may be considered an elliptical clause, or some would see it as part of a compound predicate. But since it doesn't have a subject, I think it needs to be explained in a lesson on clauses. Thanks.

Hello CJM,

I would say that there is a subject here, grammatically speaking, but it is omitted because of ellipsis, and not for any grammatical reason. It would then read as follows:

...and [he] had just had it valued by a London dealer at £180,000.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,
Thanks. Yes, that's what I meant when I said it may be considered an elliptical clause. I just meant that this should be explained clearly in the lesson, so that it is clear that a clause must indeed have a subject.

Hi the learn English team can you tell me the difference between few and a few usage in sentence correction and the difference between little and a little usage in sentence correction.
I have faced more problem with recognition of adverbs and adjectives in the particular sentence .can you tell me the rules of adverbs and adjectives usage in sentences