Bridlington Road, Driffield, East Yorkshire YO25 5HN

Tel: 01377 253371


Driffield Junior School

Caring, learning, sharing - Success for all

Clauses and phrases

Clauses and phrases are really important parts of writing that children need to be confident identifying.(If children can identify these confidently, it makes identifying other parts of grammar easier). There are also different types of clauses and phrases which your child will learn and use in their writing.


A clause is a sentence which always contains a subject (the thing doing the verb) and a verb (an action word).

eat your dinner before you leave I turned off the TV

There are different types of clauses that we need to be able to identify: main clause, subordinate clause and relative clause.

Main clause:

A main clause is a sentence that includes a subject and a verb and it always makes sense on its own. We use these all the time in speech and our writing.

Thank you for carrying the heavy box. I am very hungry. We played football for hours.

We can usually hear whether a sentence is a main clause by how it sounds - it should make sense on its own.

Subordinate clause:

A subordinate clause still includes a verb and a subject (because it is a clause) but unlike a main clause, it does not make sense on its own. In order for it to make sense, it has to be joined to a main clause. Subordinate clauses usually begin with a subordinating conjunction (I SAW A WABUB).

After you've eaten, please tidy up your mess.

I loved the party although I am now exhausted.

The subordinate clauses are highlighted in bold. On their own, they do not make sense but they do when paired with a main clause.

Relative clause:

A relative clause is a type of subordinate clause because it also does not make sense on its own. Again, it needs to be paired with a main clause. Subordinate and relative clauses help us add more information to a sentence without writing separate sentences.

Relative clauses always begin with a relative pronoun (recap these on the 'Word Classes' section) and give the reader more information about the noun. Therefore, the relative clause will usually follow the noun in the sentence.

The puppy, which was adorable and fluffy, bounded through the door.

Bridlington is a seaside destination which used to be a thriving fishing town.


A phrase is a group of words which does not have a verb. We do not usually use these on their own because they do not sound right or make sense on their own.

the large, scarred shark over the rainbow in the beginning

These examples are all phrase because they do not contain verbs. When we add a verb to them, they become a clause. For example, the large, scarred shark darted. By adding the verb 'darted' it is now a clause.

Noun phrase:

Noun phrases are used in our writing to describe/provide more information about the noun. Because they are a type of phrase, they never include a verb.

Noun phrases = Determiner + Adjective(s) + Noun

the soft ice-cream

three abandoned bicycles

several excited, young children

We can remember noun phrases by using the acronym DAN! However, sometimes noun phrases can be presented in a different way (we might see this more in upper school):

a fluffy, green pencil case with a gold zip

This is still a noun phrase because 'with a gold zip' is still describing the noun (the pencil case) and it does not have a verb in.


Adverbials used to be referred to as adverbial phrases. However, we now just call them adverbials. We know that adverbs describe a verb using one word. Adverbials do a very similar job: they describe a verb by telling us how it was done, when it was done or where it was done but we use a group of words (instead of a single word) to make a phrase. You will notice that the examples below do now have a verb because they are phrases:

Adverbials of time: yesterday morning, at around midnight, before lunchtime, before 1pm

Adverbials of place: on the playground, under the bridge, along the corridor, on top of the climbing frame

Adverbials of manner: in a friendly manner, with a limp, in a stuttering voice