How to Identify and Distinguish Clauses
by Owen Fourie
~ Part Three ~
In Part Two, we looked at restrictive or essential or defining clauses; nonrestrictive or nonessential or non-defining clauses; elliptical and noun clauses .
In this conclusion to our study, there are two important clauses to consider.
The adjective clause or adjectival clause
If you remember that the function of an adjective is to modify a noun (or a pronoun), you should easily identify an adjectival clause.
You will find that it is a dependent clause that is modifying a noun.
It is also called a relative clause, and we have already considered this under the subheading “The relative clause and the sentential clause” in Part One of this article.
A few more examples of the adjectival clause will help you to see how it functions:
The superstore that marked down its prices lost many of its customers.
(The italicized adjectival clause is modifying the noun superstore.)
My sister, who is studying journalism in college, struggled with writing in high school. (modifying the noun sister)
Washington, D. C., which was not the first capital of the United States, has been the seat of Congress for more than two hundred years. (modifying Washington, D.C.)
The adverb clause or adverbial clause
The function of an adverb is to modify a verb or an adjective or another adverb. An adverbial clause functions as an adverb.
If you remember this, you will easily identify an adverbial clause, especially as you find it modifying a verb in the main clause of a sentence.
Here are examples of the different kinds of adverbial clauses:
Adverbial clause of time
You may play computer games when you have finished your assignment. (adverbial clause of time modifying the verb play in the main clause; some other subordinating conjunctions introducing adverbial clauses of time are before, after, while, since, whenever, as);
Adverbial clause of place
Justin put the story where Ryan could find it. (adverbial clause of place modifying the verb put in the main clause; wherever is another subordinating conjunction introducing adverbial clauses of place);
Adverbial clause of purpose
Justin outlined his story beforehand so that he could write it more easily. (adverbial clause of purpose modifying the verb outlined in the main clause; so that and in order that introduce adverbial clauses of purpose);
Adverbial clause of result or consequence
In the following example, note that adverbial clauses of result or consequence are also introduced by so that. Often, the main clause contains so or such followed by that in the subordinate clause;
A strong wind raged through the valley so that the fire became difficult to control. (adverbial clause of result or consequence modifying the verb raged in the main clause);
Emma is such a modest girl that she will not boast of her abilities. (adverbial clause of result or consequence modifying the adjective modest in the main clause);
Adverbial clause of cause or reason
Since he was so unsure of how to do it, Ryan deferred proposing to Heather. (adverbial clause of cause or reason modifying the verb deferred in the main clause; some other subordinating conjunctions introducing adverbial clauses of cause or reason are because, that, and as);
Adverbial clause of condition
If the wind blows too strongly, it will not be safe on the lake. (adverbial clause of condition modifying the [adverb] adjective [not] safe in the main clause; some other subordinating conjunctions introducing adverbial clauses of condition are whether and unless);
Adverbial clause of comparison of degree
For Heather, it was later than Ryan had thought. (adverbial clause of comparison of degree modifying the adjective later in the main clause);
Adverbial clause of comparison of manner
The engagement celebration ended as we expected. (adverbial clause of comparison of manner modifying the verb ended in the main clause);
Adverbial clause of supposition or concession
Although he had feared to do it, Ryan finally proposed to Heather. (adverbial clause of supposition or concession modifying the verb proposed in the main clause; other subordinating conjunctions introducing adverbial clauses of supposition or concession are though and even if).
This is not a complete list of terms used for adverbial clauses. If you research the topic, you certainly will find others.
There is a favorite clause for many children at a certain time of the year. It is, of course, Santa Clause! He is always so busy preparing for his annual distribution of gifts that he tends to neglect his own children. They don’t like this, and they have become quite rebellious. That is why they are known as insubordinate clauses.
Are there any clauses mentioned here that you find difficult to identify? If so, which are they and what confuses you? What are your particular struggles with English Grammar? If you need help with any grammar problem, ask here. Do you have any useful insights? Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.
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