A phrase is a group of related words that act as a unit within a sentence, but do not form a complete thought.

Tired and overworked,…


A clause is a group of related words containing a subject and verb that is a complete sentence or part of a sentence.

Clauses can be independent (also known as main) or dependent (also known as subordinate). Dependent clauses cannot stand alone.

I work in a bank. (independent)

While I was completing my internship (dependent), I worked in a bank (independent).

Clauses can also be restrictive (also known as defining) or non-restrictive (also known as non-defining). A restrictive clause is essential to the meaning of a sentence, and a non-restrictive clause is not essential to the essence of the sentence.

The bike that is in the shed needs fixing. (restrictive clause – the sentence is referring to a specific bike and its location)
The bike, which is on the grass, needs fixing. (non-restrictive clause because the fact the bike is on the grass is extra information)


The subject performs the action of the verb. This is not true if the sentence is passive (see Voice below). A broader definition is that the subject is what the sentence is about.

Tip: What is the sentence about? Who did it?

The executive team reviewed the reports. (active)
The reports were reviewed. (passive)


The object receives the action of the verb. Objects can be direct or indirect.

He wrote the report. (direct object)
She gave the report to her manager. (indirect object)


When the subject performs the action of the verb, the voice is active.

When we don’t know who performs the action of the verb, or the doer comes after the verb, the voice is passive.

She wrote the report. (active)
The email was written by the manager. (passive)
The decision was made. (passive)

* Traditional grammar distinguishes between ‘simple’ and ‘complete’ subjects. Modern grammar uses the terms ‘head noun’ and ‘noun phrase’.

The hard-working employee received a bonus.
employee = simple subject or head noun
The hard-working employee = complete subject or noun phrase.

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