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Phrase vs. Clause: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 26, 2023
A phrase is a group of related words without a subject and verb, whereas a clause contains both a subject and a verb.

Key Differences

A phrase is a collection of words that function as a single unit in a sentence but lacks a subject, verb pairing. On the contrary, a clause is a group of related words that includes a subject and a verb. These fundamental distinctions shape how each element functions in language.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023
Within a sentence, a phrase might serve various roles such as a noun, verb, adverbial, or adjectival unit. For example, in the phrase "under the weather," there's no clear subject doing an action. A clause, however, always carries meaning related to an action being done by a subject, like in the clause "she sings."
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023
There are different types of phrases, such as noun phrases or prepositional phrases, which are built around central words but do not convey a complete thought. Clauses can be independent, expressing a complete thought (e.g., "I love music"), or dependent, which cannot stand alone (e.g., "because it soothes me").
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023
Furthermore, multiple phrases can exist within a single clause. For instance, in the clause "She ran through the park," "She" is a noun phrase and "through the park" is a prepositional phrase. Conversely, a clause can be part of a larger phrase, indicating the intricate relationship between phrases and clauses in sentence structure.
Sara Rehman
Oct 26, 2023
In summary, while both phrases and clauses are foundational components of sentences, they differ in their composition and function. Phrases are groups of words without subjects and verbs, while clauses have both, grounding sentences in actions and actors.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 26, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Basic Definition

Group of related words
Group of related words with a subject & verb
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Contains Subject & Verb

No
Yes
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Types

Noun, verb, adjectival, adverbial, etc.
Independent, dependent
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Example

"on the table"
"She laughs"
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Completeness

Doesn't convey a complete thought
Can convey a complete thought
Janet White
Oct 26, 2023
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Phrase and Clause Definitions

Phrase

A word unit in a sentence.
In a heartbeat is an idiomatic phrase.
Sara Rehman
Oct 26, 2023

Clause

A structural unit in grammar.
Because she was tired is a subordinate clause.
Janet White
Oct 26, 2023

Phrase

A segment of language without a subject and verb.
With a smile is a prepositional phrase.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Clause

A group of words with a subject and verb.
The cat slept is an independent clause.
Huma Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Phrase

A group of related words.
Bright and early is a common phrase.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Clause

A group of related words that can stand alone or function within a sentence.
While I was eating is a temporal clause.
Harlon Moss
Oct 26, 2023

Phrase

A combination of words expressing a concept.
For the time being is a temporal phrase.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Clause

A segment of a sentence that can express a complete thought.
If you build it is a dependent clause.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Phrase

A sequence of words with a specific grammatical function.
The man with the hat contains a noun phrase.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Clause

A component of a complex sentence.
He left because he was bored has both an independent and dependent clause.
Janet White
Oct 26, 2023

Phrase

A sequence of words that have meaning, especially when forming part of a sentence.
Sumera Saeed
Apr 12, 2022

Clause

(Grammar) A group of words containing a subject and a predicate and forming part of a compound or complex sentence.
Sumera Saeed
Apr 12, 2022

FAQs

Can a clause be part of a phrase?

Yes, a clause can be nested within a larger phrase.
Sara Rehman
Oct 26, 2023

Is "in the morning" a phrase or a clause?

It's a phrase, specifically a prepositional phrase.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

What's the primary distinction between a phrase and a clause?

A phrase lacks a subject and verb pairing, while a clause has both.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

What's an example of a verb phrase?

"Have been running" is a verb phrase.
Sara Rehman
Oct 26, 2023

Can a sentence be just a phrase?

No, a complete sentence requires at least one clause.
Huma Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Can a sentence have multiple phrases and clauses?

Absolutely, many complex sentences contain several of each.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

What differentiates an independent from a dependent clause?

An independent clause can stand alone as a sentence, while a dependent clause can't.
Harlon Moss
Oct 26, 2023

Do all clauses convey complete thoughts?

No, only independent clauses do; dependent clauses don't stand alone.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Can a phrase become a clause?

If you add a subject and verb, a phrase can be expanded into a clause.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

Why are dependent clauses also called subordinate clauses?

They're "subordinate" because they rely on main clauses to make sense.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023

How do adverbial clauses differ from adverbial phrases?

Adverbial clauses have a subject and verb; adverbial phrases don't.
Harlon Moss
Oct 26, 2023

Is "the quick brown fox" a clause or phrase?

It's a phrase, specifically a noun phrase.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 26, 2023

Can a sentence begin with a phrase?

Yes, for example, "In the garden, the flowers bloomed."
Aimie Carlson
Oct 26, 2023

Are there verb clauses?

No, but there are verb phrases.
Sara Rehman
Oct 26, 2023

Why are understanding phrases and clauses important?

They're foundational to sentence structure, aiding in effective communication.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 26, 2023

How is a noun phrase different from a noun clause?

A noun phrase centers around a noun, while a noun clause has a subject and verb but functions as a noun.
Harlon Moss
Oct 26, 2023

Are idioms considered phrases?

Yes, idioms like "kick the bucket" are types of phrases.
Sara Rehman
Oct 26, 2023

Can clauses and phrases be combined?

Yes, often a single sentence will contain multiple phrases and clauses.
Sara Rehman
Oct 26, 2023

What's a relative clause?

A type of dependent clause introduced by relative pronouns, e.g., "who" or "which."
Harlon Moss
Oct 26, 2023

Which is longer, a phrase or a clause?

Neither inherently; both can be short or long, depending on content.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 26, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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