I am trying to understand how many types of subordinate clauses are recognized in English. I couldn't find a complete list anywhere, so I tried to make my own. My question is: do all of the following clauses exist? Did I get their right names? Did I miss any?

adversative clause --> "While they should have thanked her, they yelled at her"

causal clause --> "As I don't know, I can't say"

comparative clause --> "It is just the way I imagined it"

concessive clause --> "Although I knew it, I could not remember it"

conditional clause --> "I would tell you, if I only knew"

consecutive clause --> "The riddle was so difficult that nobody could guess"

declarative content clause --> "I have the feeling that you know it"

exceptive clause (?) --> "They will tell you, unless they don't know either"

exclamative clause --> "What a brilliant idea you gave me!"

exclusive clause (?) --> "They will do it without you even knowing"

imperative clause --> "Please tell me"

(indirect) interrogative clause --> "I wonder if you know"

(direct) interrogative clause --> "Do you know?"

final clause --> "I asked the question (in order) to learn more about it"

instrumental clause --> "By asking, you may get an answer"

limitative clause --> "As far as I know, this clause exists too"

modal clause --> "They answered the question as accurately as they could"

objective clause --> "I know the answer is not straightforward"

place clause --> "Wherever it is, I'll find it"

relative clause --> "He asked a question that was promptly answered"

subjective clause --> "It is necessary that you be there"

time clause --> "I asked after searching everywhere"

  • An adversative clause is usually called a contrastive clause, and I would call subjective clause an extraposed nominal clause (you don't have to use that name however). And may I suggest organizing them by main and subordinate clauses (each with their type [noun, adjective, adverb])? Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 10:16

1 Answer 1


I’m afraid that identifying types of clauses is much like identifying parts of speech. It depends who’s doing the analysis and what purpose they plan to put that to just which ones you get.

Once you split between dependent and independent clauses, or clauses that stand in for another part of speech like noun, adjective, or adverb, the entire thing becomes as much fun as counting angels dancing on pinheads.

That’s why you find various mention of adjective clauses, concessive clauses, free relative clauses, manner clauses, reinforcement clauses, counterfactual conditional clauses, adverbial clauses, nonfinite relative clauses, integrated relative clauses, time adverb clauses, participle clauses, reduced relative clauses, embedded clauses, nonfinite clauses, noun clauses, verb-first clauses, time clauses, gerund clauses, elliptical clauses, matrix clauses, content clauses, purpose clauses, cause clauses, bear clawses, nonrestrictive relative clauses, dependent clauses, difficult-to-classify clauses, correlative clauses, subordinate clauses, exclamative clauses, contrast clauses, to-infinitive clauses, finite clauses, condition clauses, restrictive relative clauses, factual conditional clauses, nominal relative clauses, argument clauses, addition clauses, apposition clauses, defining clauses, place adverb clauses, santa clauses, result clauses, concession clauses, summary clauses, adjunct clauses, reason clauses, conditional clauses, nominal -ing clauses, independent clauses, predicative clauses, small clauses, place clauses, and Wh-clauses.

It gets exhausting after a while, and that list isn’t even exhaustive. Just imagine it if were!

  • 1
    Nicely stated. Though one example should be given a wide bearth. Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 23:11

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