Phrases/Clauses: Phrases, clauses

February 6, 2003: Issue 49

SIM STYLE: Word List Spotlight: C
Do you know SIM style on these 10 commonly misused words?
• cabinetmaker (one word)
• cast off (v), cast-off (adj), castoff (n)
• catchall (one word)
• ceramic disk (not disc)
• chaise longue (not lounge) For more information see Issue 6.
• chiminea (note spelling)
• cleanup (n, adj), clean up (v)
• Colonial (capitalize)
• counter space (two words)
• crisscross (one word)

GRAMMAR: This may be basic, but what’s the difference between a phrase and a clause?
Understanding phrases and clauses is, in fact, one of the basic points of English grammar. But it often is a confusing one. Authors Lauren Kessler and Duncan McDonald suggest thinking of phrases and clauses as the building blocks of all sentences.

A phrase is a group of related words that lacks both a subject and a predicate, whereas a clause does contain a subject and a predicate. Recognizing the different types of phrases and clauses will not only help you avoid common language mishaps (such as sentence fragments and misplaced modifiers), it will help you add variety and better flow to your writing.

This week, we’ll take a closer look at the two basic types of phrases. Next time, we’ll delve deeper into clauses. A prepositional phrase (a preposition followed by its object) is easy to identify.
• Guests always gather IN THE KITCHEN.
• They use the dining area only FOR FORMAL DINNERS.
A verbal phrase can be trickier. It contains a form of a verb (a gerund, infinitive, or participle) that’s not really functioning as a verb, along with an object or other related material. A verbal phrase generally acts as a noun, adverb, or adjective within a sentence.
• KEEPING THE PROJECT ON BUDGET was the designer’s top goal. (The gerund phrase acts as a noun, the subject of the sentence.)
• TO SAVE MONEY, she incorporated flea-market finds. (The infinitive phrase acts as an adverb modifying “incorporated.”)
• ENAMORED WITH THE RESULTS, the homeowners hired her again. (The participial phrase acts as an adjective modifying “homeowners.”)

For more information see Issue 52.

Back to Style on the Go Archive
Back to BHG Stylebook Table of Contents