I was studying about clauses in a book and then a sentence came which seemed pretty abstruse to me.

The book says that in the sentence: "We can't start while it is raining," the "while it is raining" part forms a clause.

Can anybody please tell me what the subject of this clause is? Is it 'it' or 'while'. Kindly provide explanation too so that I can understand it well.

  • The analysis of "while it is raining" is quite problematic. One solution is to treat it as a preposition phrase with "while" as head and a subordinate content clause ("it is raining") as complement. Whichever way it is analysed, the subject is clearly "it".
    – BillJ
    Feb 28, 2018 at 8:01
  • 'We can't start during raining' makes it clearer that it is a preposition phrase.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 1, 2018 at 1:39

2 Answers 2


When the book says 'while it is raining' is a clause, it actually means 'it is raining' is a clause, without 'while'.

We can't start while it is raining.


We can't start during the time it is raining.

Just as you can't say 'during the time it is raining' is a clause, neither can you say 'while it is raining' is a clause.

  • If "while" is treated as a subordinating conjunction, then "while it is raining" is a clause introduced by the subordinator "while". For those (like me) who treat "while" as a preposition, then the clause is "it is raining".
    – BillJ
    Feb 28, 2018 at 8:05

While it is raining is really a clause with the subject it and the predicate is raining. While is a conjunction here, so it cannot be the subject. It only connects the main clause (we can't start) with the subordinate clause (it is raining).

Here are more examples of sentences with time clauses (time clauses are used to indicate the time when an event in the main clause takes place) (the subject of the sub-clause is in bold):

  1. As soon as you arrive, give me a call.
  2. I read it while you were drying your hair.
  3. I went there when I was a child.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.