Phrases, Clauses and Sentence Structure: Definition, Concepts, Examples

Phrases, Clauses, and Sentences are the most important structural units of language. They provide structure and meaning to almost all the languages. The phrases and clauses provide a sense to a sentence. Here we will discuss this and learn about the constituents of a sentence structure with the help of interesting example sentence for each.

Phrases, Clauses, and Sentences

A complete understanding of the structural parameters is crucial to the understanding of the meaning of sentences. Here we will study all of the three components of a sentence structure, one by one. Let us begin with phrases.


sentence structure

Any group of meaningful words that don’t make complete sense is a phrase. If taken alone i.e. without other words, it will not be meaningful at all.preposition and a However, a phrase occurs inside a sentence as its structural part.

Some of the examples of phrases are: in ten steps, the great man, a pink flower, the thick canopy, expansion term, etc. Phrases are of several types as follows:

  • Prepositional Phrase: This group of words begin with a preposition. The preposition precedes a noun or a pronoun or something which acts as a noun or a pronoun. Let us see some examples. Eid is a wonderful occasion. She was lost at sea. I am writing this essay for the entire class. The entire prepositional phrase acts as an adverb or an adjective most of the times.
  • Noun Phrase: This is a phrase that acts as a noun in a sentence. A noun or a pronoun and its modifiers make up a noun phrase. For example, The man takes a bus every day to work. Arif has a very beautiful bag with him.
  • Verb Phrase: This phrase will contain a main verb and one or more helping verb. These two will have a link that connects them together. This phrase will define the various times of the action in a sentence. For example, The car is moving in a circle. Will he be eating the entire buffet? How are you doing? These are some of the common examples and the structure is auxiliary/modal verb + auxiliary verb + auxiliary verb + main verb (as in the sentence above).


A clause is also a group of words but this group must contain the subject and a predicate. Hence, a clause can make complete sense even when present outside the sentence. A clause is that part of a sentence that contains the subject and the predicate. For example, I have a dog. The snow is falling since yesterday. Clauses are of following types:

  • Main or Independent Clause: The main clause is that part of a sentence that not only contains the subject and the predicate but also makes perfect sense if we take it out of the sentence. in other words we can say that this clause does not need a context to make sense. For example, China is growing at a very fast rate and this has surprised many economists. The clauses in bold are independent clauses.
  • Subordinate or Dependent Clause: A subordinate or a dependent clause must also contain the subject and the predicate. The only condition is that these kinds of clauses won’t make proper sense without another clause. The dependent clause depends on the main clause for deriving a proper meaning. Let us see some examples: The country is going from bad to worse. Asif has a dog who can stand on two legs. That is the umbrella which I bought online. Iran has a very beautiful culture which is also one of the oldest cultures in the world. The words in bold are the subordinate clauses.

Sentence and Sentence Structure

We define a sentence as a collection of words that make a certain intended sense. The definition is also sometimes put as a collection or group of words that make sense to a reader. Grammatically, we say that a sentence must have a predefined structure. A sentence may contain a subject, a predicate, verbs and auxiliary verbs etc.

A sentence could be a command, a statement, an exclamation, a question. It has a main clause and sometimes many clauses with at least one main clause. The sentence has to end with a full stop and must have a finite verb in it. For example: Wait here. Put it on. I am a very strong person but I also need to know more. The sentence structure has the following basic parts:

  • Subject: About which something is being said.
  • Predicate: Tells us something about the subject.
  • Direct object: A person or thing that is affected by the verb.
  • Indirect object: Usually followed by direct objects.
  • The object of the preposition: Functions as a noun or pronoun and comes right after the preposition.
  • Verbs: Indicates action, the occurrence of something or state of being.
  • Phrases: Makes sense but not complete sense, thus can’t stand alone.
  • Complements: It provides complete meaning to a subject, an object or a verb.

Solved Examples for You

Q: A sentence has only one clause. What type of clause is it and why?

Ans: The clause has to be the main clause or an independent clause. An independent clause is a clause that makes complete sense. Since a sentence also has to make sense to its reader, every sentence that has a single clause must have a main clause. The main clause makes a sentence in itself.

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