A clause is a unit of grammar that expresses a proposition. In other words, it is part of a sentence that contains some form of meaning.
Example: Although there was a storm, I walked to work.

Here, there are two clauses. “Although there was a storm” expresses a proposition, and so does “I walked to work.”

The first clause in the example above is called an adverb clause, which means that it is part of a sentence that contains a subordinating conjunction, a subject, and a verb. There are essentially five types of adverb clauses, and they can use a variety of subordinating conjunctions. They are:

Place – wherever, anywhere, everywhere, where
Example: Everywhere she goes, she brings a camera.

Time – since, while, as soon as, before, after, until, when, anytime
Example: While we were waiting for the pizza guy to arrive, we played poker at the kitchen table.

Reason – because, since, as, for, so that
Example: Because it was exceptionally cold, I wore my winter jacket.

Condition – if, when, unless, even if, even though
Example: Even if they lose by five goals, people will still love them.

Contrast – though, although, despite, in spite of, whereas
Example: Despite the poor service provided by the wait staff, we still enjoyed the food and the atmosphere of the restaurant.

All of these examples contain two parts: a subordinate clause (the adverb clause), and an independent clause. A subordinate clause needs an independent clause for it to have a complete context and for it to make sense.

The subordinate clause and independent clause can be reversed in a sentence. However, if the subordinate clause comes first, there must be a comma between it and the independent clause.
Example: Anytime I want to go outside, it always seems to rain.

This sentence can also be flipped, so that the independent clause comes first. However, if the independent clause comes first, a comma is not necessary.
Example: It always seems to rain anytime I want to go outside.

Adverb clauses are an important part of spoken and written English, and must be understood if a student wants to be a fluent speaker, or a better writer.

engVid quiz

Test your understanding of this English lesson

Test your understanding of the English lesson by answering these questions. You will get the answers and your score at the end of the quiz.