© 2017 Steve Campsall
Ah, but you will, you will... Being able to pick out the separate phrases and clauses that make up a sentence will prove Very Useful Indeed whatever other grammar you manage to learn - or not!
Sometimes, it can be relatively easy to notice each grammatical unit as each phrase is separated by a pair of commas, but more often you'll need to speak the sentence slowly and with slight exaggeration to be able to sense the 'micro-pauses' that occur after each phrase.
A phrase is always a part of a sentence.
When you read a phrase, it will sound 'complete' but not in the same way that a sentence always does.
A clause has an even more complete sense of meaning than a phrase.
A clause is always made from two or more phrases, one of which will be a verb phrase.
Try separating the following sentence into its separate phrases and clauses.
Remember to read the sentence in a somewhat exaggerated, slow but still natural way. Try hard to pick out or 'hear' the very brief micro-pauses that occur between phrases.
At school yesterday a funny thing happened to me.
In the next box, different colours will help you discover these individual grammatical units - phrases. Can you now 'hear' them? Can you see how each phrase acts as a unit of meaning, rather as if it were a single word?
At school yesterday morning a funny thing happened to me.
Did you count the two words groups, 'a funny thing happened' as a single phrase? No? Good - that's because this is not a single phrase - it's a clause - which is made from two separate phrases: a subject (which is the noun phrase: 'a funny thing') and a verb phrase that has been rendered finite by its subject (you can tell it is a finite verb because it is 'marked for tense': 'happened').
Remember that a clause is a group of words that tells of
someone or something doing or being something.
in a sentence is what gives it its
core sense. Some sentences can have more than one main clause - these
are called compound sentences
and are covered later.
Now try your hand at finding the phrases (and clause(s)) in this sentence:
On the way to college this morning I saw a large object in the sky above the entrance near the sport's field.
Part B - looking for clauses...
Can you pick out just the basic main clauses in the following sentences (hint: look for the subject/finite verb combinations). The first is shown.
1. The car swerved to the left and it almost hit the pedestrians.
2. Even though he drove with care, he failed the test.
3. I like McChicken sandwiches.
4. My school opens at 8.30 when it is term time.
5. The student who came last pays the bill.
Part C - recognising phrases...
Which of the following do you think are phrases?
a. in a minute
b. under the table
c. although he couldn't win
d. the old teddy bear
e. Jenny won't know