A phrase is a group of words that communicates a partial idea and lacks either a subject (the person or thing who performs the action of the sentence) or a verb. Several phrases may be strung together, one after another, to add detail and interest to a sentence.
Phrases are categorized based on the main word in the phrase. A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and ends with an object of the preposition; a verb phrase is composed of the main verb along with its helping verbs; and a noun phrase consists of a noun and its modifiers.
Prepositional phrase: The dog is hiding under the porch.
Verb phrase: The chef wanted to cook a different dish.
Noun phrase: The big, red barn rests beside the vacant chicken house.
An appositive phrase is a particular type of noun phrase that renames the word or group of words that precedes it. Appositive phrases usually follow the noun they describe and are set apart by commas.
My dad, a clockmaker, loved antiques.
The dog ate her homework.
Dependent (or subordinate) clauses cannot stand alone as their own sentences. They start with a subordinating conjunction, relative pronoun, or relative adjective, which will make them sound incomplete:
Because the dog ate her homework
Words That Begin Dependent Clauses
after, although, as, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order that, once, provided that, since, so, so that, than, that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, wherever, whether, while
Sentences can be classified based on the number and type of clauses they contain. A simple sentence will have only one independent clause and no dependent clauses.
The cat ran under the porch.
Just because a sentence is simple doesn’t mean it has to be short! A simple sentence has only one subject and one verb but can have lots of modifying phrases. To help identify the type of sentence, cross out modifiers, objects, and prepositional phrases:
The new car that I bought with the money I earned at my summer job
already needs new tires.
A compound sentence has two or more independent clauses and no dependent clauses.
The cat ran under the porch, and the dog ran after him.
A complex sentence has only one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.
The cat, who is scared of the dog, ran under the porch.
A compound-complex sentence has two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.
The cat, who is scared of the dog, ran under the porch, and the dog ran after him.
Sentence Structure and Clauses