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SYNTAX

1. SENTENCES VERSUS CLAUSES

A sentence is a group of words that in writing starts with a capital letter and ends with a full
stop. A grammatically complete sentence expresses a whole event or a situation with a subject
and predicate.

A very interesting novel was lying on the top shelf of an old bookcase.

S P

A clause also expresses a whole event or a situation with a subject and a predicate.

Our neighbor has written to us.

S P

(whole sentence is one main clause)

We use the term simple sentence for an independent clause that does not have another clause
functioning as one of its elements. There are general two types of clauses, those that form a
meaningful unit by themselves, called independent or main clauses, and those that cannot stand
on their own because they function as a constituent (subject, object, etc.) These are called
subordinate or dependent clauses. For example:

You can borrow my car if you need it.

Main clause Subordinate clause

2. SENTENCE TYPES

2.1.a A simple sentence consists of one main clause only. However, this does not mean that the
sentence has to be very short. The following is an example of a sentence that is simple because it
does not contain any dependent clauses :

The waitresses are basking in the sun like a herd of skinned seals, their pinky-brown bodies
shining with oil.

2.1.b A compound sentence consists of two or more main clauses that have a complete meaning
each and that are joined by one of the following conjunctions: ( and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet,
both…and, not only….but also, either… or, neither … nor)
Crystal washed the car and Art mowed the lawn.

Mary Jane’s sleeping or she’s not at home.

Whales have lungs instead of gills; they cannot breathe under water.

2.1.c A complex sentence is a sentence that contains at least one full dependent clause with its
own subject and predicate. A dependent clause is a clause that starts with a subordinator, a word
like because, although, if, who, where, when,that,etc.

He came to visit us although he was very tired.

Main clause Subordinate clause

The difference between a compound and complex sentence is that in a compound sentence,
both parts are really just simple, independent sentences. In a complex sentence, the dependent
clause cannot stand on its own and functions as a constituent of the main clause, or in some cases
it is only part of another sentence constituent.

Whales, which cannot breathe under water, have lungs instead of gills.

dependent clause functioning as modifier of a noun

There are three different types of dependent clauses: nominal clauses, adjectival clauses and
adverbial clauses.

2.2. NOMINAL CLAUSES

That-clauses

Nominal that-clauses can occur as:

subject: That he is still alive is a consolation.

direct object: I told him that he was wrong.

nominal predicate: The assumption is that things will improve.

adjectival complement: I’m sure that things will improve.


Wh- interrogative clauses

Subordinate wh- interrogative clauses may function as:

subject: How the book will sell depends on its author.

direct object: I can’t imagine what they want with your address.

nominal predicate: The problem is not who will go, but who will stay.

adjectival complement: I wasn’t certain whose house I was in.

prepositional complement: No one was consulted on who should have the prize.

Nominal relative clauses

subject: Whoever breaks the law deserves a fine.


direct object: I eat what I like.
indirect object: She gave whoever came to the door a winning smile.
nominal predicate: April is when the lilacs bloom.
object complement: You can call me whatever you like.
prepositional complement: You should vote for whichever candidate you think best.

Nominal exclamative clauses


extraposed subject: It’s incredible how fast she can run.
direct object: I remember what a good time I had.
prepositional complement: I read an account of what an impression you had made.

2.3. ADJECTIVAL CLAUSES

Adjectival clauses are also called attributive clauses or relative clauses and they qualify / modify
nouns they follow. Adjectival clauses are introduced by relative pronouns: who, which, whose,
that etc. Adjectival clauses may be defining or non-defining.
1. Defining adjectival clauses

The student who answered the question was John.

Thank you for the help that you have given me.

2. Non- defining adjectival clauses

Miss Smith, whom you met at the house, is going to marry Mr. Abbott.

2.4. ADVERBIAL CLAUSES

Clauses of time

Adverbial clauses of time can be used with subordinators such as: after, as, before, since,
till, until, whenever, while, now, as soon as, immediately (that), etc.:

When I last saw you, you lived in Washington.

Clauses of place

Adverbial clauses of place can be introduced by where or wherever:

He went where the doctor sent him.

Wherever he went he was welcome.

Clauses of condition

Clauses of condition may be introduced by the following subordinators: if, unless,


provided (that), providing (that), as long as, on condition that, etc.:

He must be lying if he told you that.

Clauses of concession

Clauses of concession may be introduced by although, even if, even though, if, whereas,
while, whilst:

No goals were scored, though it was an exciting game.

That won’t make any difference, even if it’s true.


Clauses of reason or cause

Clauses of reason or cause are introduced by: because, as, since, etc.:

I lent him the money because he needed it.

Since we live near the sea, we enjoy a healthy climate.

Clauses of purpose

Clauses of purpose are introduced by the combinations in order that or so that:

Some people eat so that they may live.

Clauses of result

We planted hundred of shrubs, so that by August the garden had improved


tremendously.

Clauses of manner and comparison

Clauses of manner can be introduced by as, as if, as though:

She cooks a turkey exactly as my mother did.

It looks as though he’ll come tomorrow.

Like clauses of manner, clauses of comparison may be introduced by as:

They hunted him as a tiger stalks his prey.

EXERCISE 1

Underline and identify clauses in the following sentences and specify the function of each
clause:

1. The oral examination was not such a great ordeal as I expected.

2. That it was done deliberately is quite clear.

3. The notion that people can work less and earn more is contrary to reason.

4. Don’t handle those cups and saucers as if they were of iron.

5. Many people are wondering when interplanetary travel will become possible.

6. This is the route I intend to take.


7. We greatly regret that we were obliged to refuse your invitation.

8. They went swimming although the sea was very rough.

9. What you are attempting is very difficult for you.

10. He took notes on what I have already explained to him.

11. The hospital will greatly appreciate all you can do for the patients.

12. We had to cancel the match because it was foggy.

13. The suggestion that cinemas should open on Sundays was welcomed.

14. We were very amused by what you told us.

15. The house where he lives has just been repainted.

16. This is what I have always imagined.

17. Tell me where you are going for holiday.

18. When I went to his studio, he showed me all the paintings he had done recently.

19. We shall go wherever she wishes to take us.

20. Do you remember when Hardy came to see me?