Recognizing Clauses


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Consider the following examples:

cows eat grass

This is a clause as it contains a subject (cows) and a predicate (eat grass).

cows eating grass

This noun phrase could be a subject, but it has no predicate attached to it: the adjective phrase eating grass indicates which cows the writer is referring to, but there is nothing to show why the writer is mentioning cows.

cows eating grass are visible from the highway

This example is a clause. The subject cows eating grass and the predicate are visible from the highway make up a complete thought.


This single-word command is also a clause, even though it does not seem to have a subject. In the case of a direct command, it is not necessary to include the subject as it is obviously the person or persons the writer or speaker is addressing. In other words, the clause really reads [You] run! Direct commands should generally not be used in formal writing, except in quotations.

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