Understanding clauses

All about clauses


We said earlier that, by definition, a clause contains a subject as well as a verb group.

Does that mean that if you wanted to count clauses in a sentence, you could count subjects in the same way we counted verb groups on the previous page? 🤔

Let's try it.

Paul thought he should run to the door.

The Old, Dead NuisanceM.T. AndersonSource

2 verb groups and 2 subjects! So far so good. Let's do another one.

I could see he was alive even though he made no sign or movement.

Unbelievable!Paul JenningsSource

3 and 3! Every verb group so far has a corresponding subject—it's like a magic rule!

He'd been sent there for being a nuisance in Assembly.

Flour BabiesAnne FineSource

Uh-oh... The second verb group in that last snippet doesn't seem to have a subject. 😭

Or does it? 🧐

It isn't explicitly written out, but it's clear from context that he who'd "been sent there" was also the one "being a nuisance in Assembly".

This is called an 'implied subject'. We know what the subject is from the previous clause, so we don't need it spelled out again. We're smarter than that!

What are the implied subjects in these sentences?

My eyes are black and I can make them go all wicked and witchy.

The Story of Tracy BeakerJacqueline WilsonSource
Your turn

Try the same thing on this snippet, in which a submarine has tipped over after striking something beneath an iceberg:

The pictures on the starboard side, from being no longer vertical, were clinging to the paper, whilst those of the port side were hanging at least a foot from the wall.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaJules VerneSource
Your turn
The answers

The ability to carry through subjects from other clauses is a key way we can make our writing more efficient, so keep an eye out for implied subjects as you work through this lesson!

Can there ever be more than 1 subject?

Next, we'll look at the elements that not all clauses have: modifiers and objects.

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