Phrases and Clauses: What's the Difference?

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13712

Good houses are built with steel and wood. Good sentences are built with phrases and clauses. Learn the differences between these basic tools of good sentence-building and the various types of each!


Grammar, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • What do you call a writer who doesn't follow the rules of sentence structure?

thinking couple

A rebel without a clause!

laughing rebel granny

If you're ready to be a rebel with a clause (and a phrase or two), read on!

  • If you had to explain the difference between phrases and clauses right now, could you?

It's not the easiest concept to explain!

Phrases are groups of words that express an idea or meaning and act as components of clauses.

Clauses are groups of words that contain a verb (but often other word parts, too) and can be independent (a complete sentence) or dependent (not a complete sentence).

Simply put, phrases and clauses are chunks of meaning that are used to make sentences. You will learn about several different types of each in this lesson.


There are seven types of phrases you will work with in this lesson:

  • noun
  • verb
  • adjectival
  • adverbial
  • participial
  • prepositional
  • absolute

In a new tab, look up the definition of each of these types of phrases and record them in a notebook or doc file. You'll want to be able to refer back to it throughout this lesson and as you continue your studies in grammar and writing.


There are five clause types you'll learn about in this lesson:

  • independent
  • dependent
  • noun
  • relative
  • adverbial

Just like with phrases, add the definitions of these clause types to your running glossary of terms.

Think Fast!

  • Of the 12 types of phrases and clauses listed above, which two can be a phrase and a clause?

  • Ready to review the terms and definitions you looked up?

Match the Phrase or Clause type on the left to its definition on the right:


That's a lot of phrases and clauses!

It's important to have a good foundation of understanding the terms before moving on to practicing them.

If you're ready to dig into examples of each type of phrase and clause, click through to the Got It? section!

Elephango's Philosophy

We help prepare learners for a future that cannot yet be defined. They must be ready for change, willing to learn and able to think critically. Elephango is designed to create lifelong learners who are ready for that rapidly changing future.