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Clauses - Complex Sentences

What He Said Was Instructive

Here the words what he said name that of which we think; therefore they are used as a subject, like a noun.

The Scout Reported What He Had Seen

Here the words what he had seen are used to tell what the scout reported, and are used as an object, like a noun.

The boys who are. studious will learn. - Here the words who are studious describe the noun boys; therefore they are used as an adjective.

John stopped when you spoke. Here the words when you spoke tell when John stopped, and limit the meaning of the verb stopped; therefore they are used as an adverb.

In these sentences each of the groups of words what he said, what he had seen, who are studious, and when you spoke, contains a subject and a predicate. They are used as nouns, or as modifiers of words in the sentences like adjectives or adverbs. Such groups of words are called clauses.

A clause is a group of words containing a subject and a predicate, which is used like a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.


The principal statement of a complex sentence is sometimes called the principal clause.

Point out the clauses in the following sentences, and tell whether they are used as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

1. He did the work which was assigned him.

2. The chief signaled those who followed him to conceal themselves at once.

3. When the time comes you will find him ready.

4. When winter came, the boys helped their father fell the trees and haul the logs to the mill.

5. The largest trout were found in the deepest water.

6. He lives a noble life who always does his duty.

7. The man who earns more than he spends will never come to want.

8. The bird chorus began when the first faint flush of dawn appeared in the east.

9. When the summer sun is shining

And the sky is blue above, Then you look at us and send us Radiant smiles of joy and love.

Since a clause may be used as a noun, as an adjective, or as an adverb, we have noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverbial clauses, according to their use.

A complex sentence is a sentence that contains one principal statement, modified by one or more clauses.

A clause is sometimes called a subordinate or dependent clause.

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