Phrase vs Clause: Difference and Comparison

Phrases and clauses play an enormous role in English grammar, making it necessary to know the “Difference Between Phrases and Clause’’.


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Although this distinction between a phrase and a clause is slim, one must clearly understand it as both the phrase and the clause play an essential role in English grammar.

Therefore, phrases and clauses are often referred to as a part of a sentence.

If we forget for a moment the grammatical significance of the phrase and the genre and only pay attention to the word, we can see that the source of the word was found in the middle of the 16th century.

At an equivalent time, the origin of the word clause is found in Middle English.

Key Takeaways

  1. A phrase is a group of words that functions as a single unit in a sentence, lacking both a subject and a verb, such as a noun phrase, verb phrase, or prepositional phrase.
  2. A clause is a group of words that contains both a subject and a verb, forming a complete thought or idea, and can be either independent or dependent on another clause for meaning.
  3. The key distinction between phrases and clauses is the presence of a subject and a verb in clauses, which allows them to convey a complete thought. In contrast, phrases function as single units within sentences without expressing a full idea.

Phrase vs Clause

The difference between Phrases and Clauses is their use in grammar. A phrase is a sequence of words that acts as an integral part of a sentence. On the contrary, a clause in an aspect of the sentence is inherent in a verb. A phrase is just not enough to complete a sentence, whereas a clause helps to do it.

Phrase vs Clause


Comparison Table

Parameter of comparisonPhraseClause
MeaningA set of words that works together with a particular meaning but cannot stand their own as a sentence.A group of related words forms part of a sentence or stands on their own as a sentence containing a subject and a verb.
Component ofClause or sentenceComplete sentence carrying complete meaning
It makes a complete senseNoYes
Conveys a thought or ideaNoYes
ExampleI will see you at the restaurant.
The boy loves to play alone.
I waited for her, but she didn’t come.
You can play after finishing your task.


What is Phrase?

A phrase is a set of words that constitute the conceptual unit. It’s important to understand that the string of these words doesn’t constitute an entire sentence. In other words, the phrase refers to an idiom or short expression.

The phrase is used figuratively to refer to the ‘twist of thought’, like a gorgeous twist in a phrase. It refers to a group of notes forming distinct units within a more significant piece.

Sometimes, the word phrase is used as a verb in the sentence. Here the absence of a subject-verb combination is significant. A phrase may have a subject or a verb but won’t have both together.

Mainly there are six types of phrases in English grammar :

  1. Noun Phrase – Eg. The woman at the shop is my mother.
  2. Verb Phrase – Eg. He must be singing at the Super singing star.
  3. Adverbial Phrase – Rakesh told me the truth very honestly.
  4. Gerund Phrase – Neha and her friends enjoyed a lot of dancing at the birthday party.
  5. Infinitive Phrase – Kapil loves to surprise others.
  6. Prepositional Phrase – I wish to live near the hotel.

What is Clause?

A clause is a group of words where a subject performs a Verb well. It is a distinct part of a sentence and includes a subject and a prediction. This is a type of sentence that might or might not be complete.

It is important to note that even a clause does not constitute a complete sentence like a phrase. A clause is used as an integral part of a sentence.

It consists of a subject and only predicts. The presence of the combination of a subject-verb is significant here.

There are different types of clauses:

  1. Dependent clause – Eg. I had food before I left for the market.
  2. Independent clause – Eg. Rahul talks slowly at the meeting.
  3. Noun clause – Eg. I know what he is trying to do.
  4. Relative clause – Eg. The girl who gave you a rose yesterday is my sister.
  5. Adverbial clause – Eg. After the party was finished, the band left for Delhi for the next program.

Main Differences Between Phrase and Clause

The following points are sufficient to give a fair idea about the differences between Phrases and Clause :

  1. The actual difference between ‘Phrase’ and ‘Clause’ is that where Clause has a subject and a predicate, a Phrase has only one of two. Usually, there is a noun but no verb in a Phrase. It does not have a predicate.
  2. Although the phrases are built into clauses, the essential thing is that ‘Phrase’ cannot stand alone as a fulfilled sentence because it doesn’t provide a complete meaning. Each word of ‘Phrase’ feature a meaning but doesn’t make an entire sense like a sentence.
  3. On the other hand, the Clause has both a subject and a verb with a predicate.  It’s a group of words that forms part of a sentence. Clauses can also include phrases. If there is no subject-verb combination in the clause, then it forwards into the category of phrases.
  4. A clause is an individual part of a sentence and includes a subject and a prediction. This is the main difference between the two terms and the sentence. A clause is a sentence fragment.
  5. The phrase is a glossary of words that forms the conceptual unit. In other words, the phrase refers to an idiom or short expression. Phrases are sometimes used figuratively. It is interesting to note that a phrase is a subset of a genre. Sometimes, the phrase of a word is used as a verb.
  6. In the case of music, the phrase refers to a group of notes that form a separate unit within a more extensive section; in the case of law, the word phrase refers to any single statement.
  7. Where a clause is an independent clause, it can stand alone and expresses a thought or meaning. But it can never stand alone if it’s a dependent clause. Then something else is needed to fulfil it.
  8. A phrase may slot in a clause, but a clause might not slot in a phrase any more than a shoebox can fit in a shoe.
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