Difference Between Phrase and Clause


Main Difference

The main difference between a phrase and a clause is that phrase is an incomplete sentence and consists of an object, whereas a clause is a complete sentence that comprises a subject and predicate.

Phrase vs. Clause

The phrase is an incomplete sentence. A clause is a complete sentence. The phrase is a part of the clause. A clause is a part of a sentence or can be a sentence. The phrase needs another sentence to clarify its meaning. A clause is a complete sentence that clarifies its meaning without a phrase. The phrase does not consist of a verb and subject whereas the clause consists of a verb and subject.


The phrase does not deliver any idea; it always needs a determiner. Clause deliver thoughts and ideas to the audience as it is a whole. The classification of the phrase depends upon the type of word from which it starts; it can be a noun phrase, prepositional phrase, infinitive phrase, adverbial phrase, or an adjective phrase. Clauses have two main types, i.e. independent clauses and dependent clauses.

The phrase is always a dependent sentence on the flip side clause that can be a simple sentence and can be dependent. A clause consists of one phrase, while a sentence can consist of one, two, or three clauses.

Phrase clarifies its context but with the addition of verb and subject while clause includes a phrase which further clarifies it. Some examples of phrases are under the table, on the ground, in my home, and many more. Some examples of clauses are he is laughing, he is sleeping, etc.


Comparison Chart

A group of words that does not define a complete sentenceA group of words that conveys the complete meaning
Verb and subject are absentVerb and subject are present
What It Conveys?
Does not convey a thought or an ideaA thought or an idea
Depends on another part of the sentenceDoes not depends on another part
Can be noun, prepositional or adverbial phraseIndependent clause and a dependent clause
Part Of
Part of clauseComplete sentence
Only one in a clause.More than one clause in a sentence
On the bedHe is lying down

What is a Phrase?

A phrase is a group of words, often said as a single unit of a sentence, that does not convey complete meaning. A phrase can come with a clause, or often possess a clause in its structure. The phrase has common use as well as technical use. Both terms possess different meanings. When there comes to common usage, the phrase is a group of words, especially idioms words.

In grammar terminology, the phrase is a word or a group of words that forms a sentence. Furthermore, the phrase consists of a word that specifies its features are headwords. The other parts of the phrase are dependents. There are many categories of phrases depending upon the head and dependents.


  • Noun Phrase: A word or group of words that signify a noun, i.e. “It contains them.” In this sentence, there are two noun phrases “it” and “them”
  • Adverbial Phrase: Two or more words that work as an adverb, i.e.” She parked the car right here.” In this example “right here” is an adverbial phrase.
  • Adjective Phrase: When the headword pronounces as an adjective, i.e. “The movie was not too horrible.” In this example “too horrible” is an adjective phrase.
  • Verb Phrase: The most complex phrase in which a crowd of words works as a verb, i.e. “She kept screaming like a football maniac.” In this example “kept screaming” is a verb phrase.
  • Prepositional Phrase: In this phrase, always a preposition is present. This phrase notifies a specific time, location, or condition, i.e. “He saw a girl through the window.” In this sentence “through the window” is a prepositional phrase.

What is Clause?

A clause is that part of a sentence that includes a subject and verb. The clause defines a complete meaning and does not depend on other parts of sentences to clarify itself. Clause conveys a thought or an idea through its complete sense. There can be a clause or can be two or three clauses in a sentence. The two main types of clauses include dependent and independent clauses.


  • Independent/ Main Clause: The clause which can stand alone and clarifies the meaning itself, i.e. “this is a home, where people live.” In this example “this is a home” is the main clause.
  • Coordinate Clause: A clause joined by coordinate conjunction, i.e. “he is poor but does not beg.” In this sentence, “but” is a coordinating conjunction.
  • Subordinate Clause: A clause that is dependent on another part of a sentence, i.e. “this is a home where people live.” In this example “where people live” is a dependent clause.
  • Noun Clause: The clause which works as a noun, i.e.” Alex knows where I go.” In this example, “where I go” is a noun clause.
  • Adjective clause: A clause that works as an adjective, i.e. “blessed are those whose cares are few.” Here “whose cares are few” is an adjective clause.
  • Adverbial Clause: A clause that works as an adverb, i.e. “he can go whenever he wants.” Here “whenever he wants” is an adverbial clause

Key Differences

  1. A phrase can be a word or group of words that depends on other sentences to complete its meaning, whereas a clause is a group of words that gives a complete meaning to a sentence.
  2. The phrase does not consist of a verb and subject gives information about the only object while the clause consists of subject, verb, and object
  3. The phrase does not convey complete information on the flip side clause to convey the complete meaning of a structure.
  4. The phrase is an incomplete structure that does not convey any thought or an idea, whereas the clause conveys definite ideas and thoughts.
  5. A phrase depends on other parts of sentences to complete its formation conversely clause can only define itself.
  6. Phrases classify according to the starting word that can be a noun, a preposition, an adjective, or an adverb; on the other hand, a clause has two categories it can be a dependent clause or an independent clause.
  7. The phrase is not a complete sentence, but it is a part of a clause, whereas the clause gives the complete meaning of the sentence.
  8. The number of phrases is one in every clause on the flip side a sentence can formulate from more than one clause.
  9. “At the table” is an example of a phrase, whereas an example of the clause is “he is eating.” It is a complete sentence, but the phrase needs a reference to be described. A clause is giving its complete meaning it does not need any determiner.


Phrases and clauses both are part of a sentence, but the phrase does not consist of verbs and subjects and needs another sentence to complete its meaning. A clause consists of verb and subject and conveys a thought or an idea.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson