What is the difference between a phrase and a clause? I tried looking this in dictionary but can not identify the difference. It would be great if I could get an example and formula of what makes a phrase and a clause.


2 Answers 2


The short answer: clauses contain a subject and its verb, while phrases do not. Note that phrases may contain nouns and verbals, but won't have the noun as the verb's actor.

The long answer: see this page from the University of Chicago which has several examples.

  • 2
    This is what I learned at school. However, Wikipedia says, “In ‘Eating this cake is easy,’ ‘eating this cake,’ although traditionally known as a phrase, is referred to as a non-finite clause in modern linguistics.” Note that “eating this cake” does not contain a subject. I am not sure if Wikipedia is correct about this or not. Nov 22, 2010 at 15:03
  • IN other words a clause may be a sentence while a phrase is not? Nov 22, 2010 at 22:58
  • @jpartogi - that's accurate yes. A clause may or may not be a sentence (depending on if it is a dependent or independent clause), while a phrase can not be.
    – Dusty
    Nov 22, 2010 at 23:21
  • Thanks @Dusty. That makes it easier to understand now. Cheers. Nov 22, 2010 at 23:26

From: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/sentences-clauses-and-phrases

  • sentence:

    • group of words that makes complete sense
    • contains a main verb
    • begins with a capital letter
    • usually ends in a punctuation like period . or exclamation mark !
    • can contain multiple clauses, separated by conjunctions like and, punctuation like commas , or stuff like if ... then, who, that

    He is the author     who          has been writing a very good book.
       [clause 1]     [separator]              [clause 2]
  • clause:

    • group of words that contains a verb
    • contains phrases
  • phrase:

    • small group of words that forms a meaningful unit within a clause or another phrase.
    • many types, including:
      • noun phrase: a very good book
      • adjective phrase: very good
      • verb phrase: has been writing

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