Section 2.1

Clauses

To understand sentence structure, you must first be able to identify a clause, which is a group of grammatically related words that includes a subject and a predicate.

A subject is a noun or pronoun that performs the action in a clause or that the clause is about.

The attorney called his client to set up a meeting.

The economy was shrinking.

The former CEO will turn 100 next month.

A predicate consists of one or more verbs and accompanying modifiers.

Subject  • Predicate

The foreman helped the workers to safety.

Rene Singer’s new book has won three business
writing prizes
.

Amy, Marty, and Tiffany formed a committee to evaluate the applicants.

The third sentence above contains a compound subject consisting of three proper nouns.

In addition, all three of the preceding examples are independent clauses. That means they can stand alone as complete sentences.

A second clause type is called dependent. Dependent clauses begin with a subordinating conjunction, as in these examples:

Subordinating ConjunctionSubjectPredicate

because it was snowing

when Mr. Rogers returned to work

Even though dependent clauses contain a subject and a predicate, they cannot stand alone as sentences; if they do, they are called sentence fragments, a common type of grammatical error. They can, however, be combined with independent clauses to create complete sentences, as you will see in the next section.