Types of Clauses

Clauses are used in Eng­lish gram­mar very often. A clause is noth­ing but a pair of words that has a sub­ject and a pred­i­cate. If you take a basic state­ment in Eng­lish it con­sists of sin­gle clause and a com­pli­cated sen­tence may con­tain more than one clause. There are dif­fer­ent kinds of clauses that we use in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. So let’s know about them.

There are two kinds of clauses: prin­ci­pal (or main) clauses, and sub­or­di­nate (or depen­dent) clauses.

Types of Clauses

Types of Clauses

Prin­ci­pal Clauses: A group of words which includes a sub­ject and a finite verb and makes a com­plete statement.


  • The house stands on the hill.
  • When I come home, I will let the cat in.

The fol­low­ing are not prin­ci­pal clauses because they do not make a com­plete state­ment which can stand by itself:

  • Which is a problem
  • That the man is not on the hill
  • When I come home
  • The man stands on the table

Sub­or­di­nate Clause: A group of words which includes a finite or non-finite verb but does not make a state­ment which stands by itself.


  • As soon as the Green Knight entered the room all were astounded.
  • He said that the Green Knight was really orange.
  • The house, which stands on the hill, is empty.

Sub­or­di­nate clauses can be clas­si­fied accord­ing to their function:

Adver­bial Clause: An adver­bial clause func­tions like an adverb in mod­i­fy­ing another clause.


  • As soon as the Green Knight entered the room, all were astounded.
  • In this sen­tence the clause ful­fills the same func­tion as an adverb such as imme­di­ately in the sen­tence imme­di­ately all were astounded.

Noun Clause: A noun clause can be used as both an object and as a subject.


  • He said that the Green Knight was really orange.
  • The clause ful­fills the same func­tion as a noun such as the words in He said the words.

Rel­a­tive Clause


  • The house, which stands on the hill, is empty.
  • Rel­a­tive clauses are adjec­ti­val in nature. The clause ful­fills the same role as an adjec­tive such as high placed in the sentence
  • The high-placed house is empty.

Clauses can also be clas­si­fied by whether they con­tain a finite verb.

Finite Clause : A finite clause con­tains a finite verb and, usu­ally, a sub­ject. It can be a prin­ci­pal clause or a sub­or­di­nate clause.


  • They say nice things about you. (Prin­ci­pal clause)
    When they say nice things about you they are not lying. (Sub­or­di­nate clause)

Non-Finite Clause: A non-finite clause con­tains a non-finite verb but does not con­tain a finite verb and can­not stand alone. A non-finite clause can­not be a prin­ci­pal clause. Non-finite verbs con­sist of par­tici­ples and infinitives.


  • Singing and danc­ing, he moved slowly up the aisle.
  • He gave me an invi­ta­tion to bring you to the party.
  • Hav­ing eaten all the cakes, he began to con­sume the biscuits.
  • Filled with joy, he left the room.
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