Intro to Clauses

Clauses are the centerpoint of sentences. The various components of clauses are the building blocks of the English language, and a clause as a whole provides the structure of a sentence. We can create compound or complex sentences by using multiple clauses together, and in colloquial speech we sometimes use false sentences made of incomplete clauses.

Since clauses are instrumental to Modifier Clauses (like Relative Clauses and Adverbial Clauses) and Content Clauses (as in Reported Speech or Wishes & Regrets), it's important to first understand what exactly a clause is.

What to Expect

Clauses are the foundation of so many grammar points; each different type of sentence structure is a manipulation of clauses, and some involve multiple clauses. That’s one reason why it’s important for learners to understand what clauses are, what they do, and how they connect together. 

But even when making simple sentences, understanding clauses can be very helpful. Lots of common mistakes among English learners (from beginner to advanced) can be corrected or avoided if the learners know how to properly form a clause.

Whether your students have already explored complex sentences or they haven’t even gotten to compound sentences yet, an introduction to clauses may be helpful.


Learners should already be familiar with the following:

Parts of Speech: nouns, adjectives, determiners, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, and prepositional phrases. Students should also know what subjects and objects are.

Conjunctions, especially the common coordinating conjunctions: and, or, and but.

Complex Sentences like Reported Speech, Conditionals, Relative Clauses, etc. are mentioned in the video. Intermediate to Advanced students should already be familiar with these, and this video can provide some clarity for them. However, if earlier Intermediate students have not yet learned them (or have only learned some of them), that’s okay. This video can be a great jumping-off point for those lessons to come.

Proficiency Level

It is not standard to teach an introduction or overview of Clauses in TESOL. However, knowing what clauses are and how they work is useful for several intermediate to advanced level topics. Insights recommends teaching Clauses starting at a Pre-Intermediate level (or 3rd out of 6).*

*actual starting level varies from one course-book series to the next


The base of a clause is a subject and a verb that go together. Other words can be added as long as they connect to either the subject or the verb.


Clauses can be combined with other clauses to make Compound or Complex Sentences.

Bonus Notes

Log in to Insider Access to view this content.
(Signup is free!)

Printouts & Slideshows

Log in to Insider Access to view or download.

Keep on Learning; Keep on Teaching

Relative Clauses

Relative Clauses are a type of embedded clauses that act as adjectives inside the main clause.
Visit Topic Page

Reported Speech

The 'reported' part of Reported Speech (corresponding to the quote) is a Content Clause acting as a noun within the main clause.
Visit Topic Page

Wishes & Regrets

The unreal expression of Wishes and Regrets is a Content Clause acting as a noun within the main clause.
Visit Topic Page

Adverbial Clauses

Adverbial Clauses are a type of embedded clauses that act as adverbs inside the main clause.
Visit Topic Page