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English Grammar Clauses and How to Use Them

By Sophia, published on 22/08/2017 Blog > Languages > ESOL (English) > ESOL: Learn English Grammar Clauses

Native English speakers do not consciously consider grammar formulae before speaking. Speakers of other languages, on the other hand, put a great deal of thought into exactly how to structure sentences for maximum understanding and effect.

It is said that those whose native language is English are bad communicators because they tend to not conceive of anyone who could not understand them.

However, they learn the same grammar rules and vocabulary that Esl students do.

Which grammar rules would those be?

 Esl students work hard to learn English grammar Learning the finer points of English grammar can be arduous Source: Pixabay Credit: Kmicican

Prepositional Phrases

To refresh: a proposition is any word that expresses the relationship between two words – generally the one before and the one after it.

The definition of a prepositional phrase, simply put: a group of words that contains a preposition.

The more elaborate answer is: preposition+object of the preposition+any modifiers (adjectives).

For example:

Here is a notebook for you to practice your English writing skills.

For indicates the relationship between the notebook and you.

She is the teacher of my business English class.

Can you indicate where the prepositional phrase is?

The essay cover with the green stripes is yours.

This example contains an adjective as well as an object of the preposition. Can you find the prepositional phrase?

For those of you learning English as a second language, prepositions can be challenging to use correctly, both in writing and in speaking English.

Ending a Sentence with a Preposition

Not scoring well on IELTS is a situation I had not thought of.

As a rule, it is not correct to end a sentence with a preposition.

The word preposition is a combination of the prefix pre- and the word position, making the literal meaning of it: before the word.

Remembering that a word must follow a preposition or prepositional phrase will steer you clear of making that mistake.

We can reword the above sentence in this manner:

I had not thought about not scoring well on IELTS.

As an interesting side note, literature’s only accepted instance of ending a sentence with a preposition is:

There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about – Oscar Wilde

Phrasal Verbs

During informal English conversation, it is quite common to hear and use phrases such as:

  • face up to (confront)
  • Shove off (leave, depart)
  • Put up with (accept)
  • Own up to (admit)
  • Get together (meet)
  • sort it out (understand)

These are called phrasal verbs and, while trendy, are not recommended in more formal situations – say, if you are interviewing for a job.

Many people, including those who study English particularly enjoy using slang phrases, such as those above.

More appropriate would be to use business English or Standard English during any official transactions, and keep slang to a minimum.

The Object of a Preposition

Many an English learner gets confused over the use of who and whom, specifically: which one follows a preposition?

Quite a few native speakers get confused about it, too.

To whom may I direct your call?

You may have heard this phrase when you’ve called your language learning center, or maybe even you Council office.

Although unusually constructed – the prepositional phrase leads the sentence, it is correct: whom always follows a preposition.

A similar stumbling block is the proper use of if and whether after a preposition.

The decision about whether to continue my English lessons depends on my ESOL results.

Frequently, those learning English as a foreign language use if and whether interchangeably, a tendency which might cost some points on grammar quizzes.

For more on prepositions and prepositional phrases, you can refer to this page.

Four Main Types of English Clauses

Sonia let out a whoop after she learned she had scored well on Toefl.

We will use this sentence to detail and explain the four main types of clauses in the English language.

But first, a basic understanding of what a grammar clause is: a group of words that contain at least a subject and a verb.

Now, on to the different clauses. 

Recognizing clauses is difficult in English text This symbol indicates a clause, but you won’t find it in ordinary English text Source: Pixabay Credit: Geralt

Learn how English grammar has changed over the years here.

The Independent Clause

This is the most common, most often used type of clause. Its very name – independent, indicates that it can stand alone as a complete sentence.

Sonia let out a whoop.

In our sample sentence above, the first part – before the preposition, is the independent clause.

You most likely learned about independent clauses in your earliest English grammar courses.

The Dependent Clause

If the independent clause in our example sentence is everything before the preposition, it stands to reason that everything including and after the preposition would be the dependent clause.

Dependent clauses are also called subordinate clauses.

after she learned she had scored well on Toefl.

This sentence fragment does not express a complete idea.

Even though it has a subject, verb and an object, the preposition at the start of the sentence would have to be omitted in order for it to be considered a complete sentence.

To sharpen your English skills, you can practice dividing sentences into dependent and independent clauses.

The Conditional Clause

As you grow more confident in your English language skills, you may want to stray away from the standard subject-verb-object sentence format.

One way to improve your English is to construct more elaborate sentences, and using the conditional clause will give your that opportunity.

In general, conditional clauses are the first part of a sentence, in which a certain term or state is set forth. The second part of the sentence details the anticipated result of the condition.

The main point to remember when using a conditional clause is that the verb to be must take the simple past form.

If Sonia were to score well on Toefl, she would let out a whoop.

The first part of the sentence sets up the condition; the second part reveals the expected result.

Conditional clauses can be tricky. Even the average native English speaker tends to err in this grammar construction, using the present tense instead of the past tense to express conditional ideas.

There are specific rules in using conditional clauses correctly.

If you were to memorize them all, you would be an English learning star! Discover more about English verb tenses here.

The Relative Clause

This is a type of dependent clause that is distinguished by a relative pronoun.

Relative pronouns include: who, which, where, that, when, and whose.

Using our sample sentence for the last time:

Sonia let out a whoop when she learned she had scored well on Toefl.

Although most relative clauses are used to define or identify the preceding noun, sometimes they are simply used to give more information about the subject:

Sonia, who let out a whoop upon learning she did well on Toefl, is passionate about English speaking.

You will note that the relative clause is not necessary to understanding this sentence; it is there to provide additional information about the subject, Sonia.

Your English teacher most likely has a battery of grammar exercises for you to practice recognising and writing these various types of clauses.

However, in case you learn best when studying the language independently, let us point you to some excellent pages.

Find out more about English language style and form in our dedicated blog.

How to Use Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions join words, phrases and independent clauses.

 

Coordinating conjunctions give a direction to text Find your way around coordinating conjunctions with these helpful tips Source: Pixabay Credit: Geralt

An easy way to remember what words qualify as such conjunctions, simply remember the acronym FANBOYS.

  • For – explains a reason or purpose
  • And – adds one thing to another
  • Nor – presents an alternative negative idea
  • But – shows contrast
  • Or – gives a choice
  • Yet – introduces a contrasting idea
  • So – provides a conclusion

As you learn to speak English, you will be able to include these terms into your spoken English more and more naturally.

Check out our blog on words with multiple meanings in English.

The Essential Parts of English Grammar

English classes that native speakers take in the course of their academic career only give minimal focus to these clauses and how to use them.

Most people growing up in English speaking countries absorb these rules as a matter of course, while learning to speak their language.

It is for those who, like you, are studying English that these rules take on special significance.

Your fluency in the language depends on you not only understanding these rules but internalising them and incorporating them in your everyday English usage.

Your proficiency in English will be measured in any one (or all three) of the international English language tests.

These exams include questions designed to test your knowledge of these aspects of English grammar.

We hope that, as you sit through your English courses or even work to learn English online, you can refer back to these tutorials as a way to learn English better, faster.

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