Introduction to Technical Education: Phrase and Clause

  • Any word, image, or sound can be given a meaning.
  • Words can be logically combined together to create a phrase. A phrase is used to combine a set of meanings into a concept. This logical combination of words to create a phrase is called word concatenation, and it allows for a phrase to be the building block or building unit of a sentence. The phrase is best described as the grammatical unit of a sentence or clause. Using words to create a sentence is equivalent to stringing characters in computer programming, hence the idea that a sentence is a string of words.
  • Two or more phrases can be combined together to create a sentence.
  • There are 8 types of phrases:
    1. Noun Phrase: It is made up of a noun and its modifiers e.g a charged battery. A noun is a naming word that gives identity or designation to a person, object, idea, place, or idea. In this case, the noun is the battery, and its modifier is charged which means that the battery can supply electrical power.
    2. Verb Phrase: It is made up of a verb and its modifiers e.g it is charging. A verb is a word that shows an action that a subject or object is performing. In this case, the action is charging, and the object is it (which can be used to mean a battery).
    3. Absolute Phrase: It contains a subject but does not have any action verb e.g battery in hand, the charger was plugged into the socket. This phrase adds information to a sentence but it cannot be a standalone sentence. It is normally separated from another phrase in the sentence by a comma, and the absolute phrase can be eliminated from the sentence because it does not contain a verb.
    4. Gerund Phrase: It is a noun phrase that starts with a gerund e.g Charging the battery. A gerund is a verbal noun, which means that it is a verb that is acting as a noun in a phrase. The simplest way to convert a verb into a gerund is to add the suffix -ing e.g charging is the gerund for the verb charge, and this gerund is the subject of the phrase.
    5. Infinitive Phrase: It is a noun phrase that starts with an infinitive verb e.g to charge a battery. An infinitive verb is one of the 3 types of verbs, with the other 2 types being the gerund and the participle. The infinitive verb is the base verb (its basic form) that can be used as an adverb, adjective, or noun. There are 3 types of infinitive verbs:
      1. Bare Infinitive: This is the base (basic or main) form of a verb e.g charge. To use it in a sentence, it must be preceded by a modal verb or its conjugates e.g will, would, can, could; for instance, I will charge the battery. A modal verb is an auxiliary/helping/aiding verb that is used to express an obligation, request of permission, ability, or possibility.
      2. Full Infinitive: This is the bare infinitive that is preceded by the word to e.g to charge. In the Infinitive phrase, the infinitive verb used is the full infinitive because it expresses the motivation or intention of an action.
      3. Split Infinitive: This is the enhanced and modified full infinitive that contains an adverb verb between to and the bare infinitive e.g to fully charge the battery. An adverb is a word used to modify the verb by describing its state e.g fully charged.
    6. Prepositional Phrase: It starts with a preposition, or has a preposition that can function as a noun, an adverb, or an adjective e.g the charging battery is on the workstation. A preposition is an indeclinable word that is used to show the relationship between words in a sentence e.g the battery is on top of the workstation. An indeclinable word has one a single form e.g on only exists as on as there is no ons or oning.
    7. Appositive Phrase: It is used to qualify or describe the status of a noun e.g the battery, the lithium-ion rechargeable battery, can be charged multiple times.
    8. Participial Phrase: This is a phrase that starts with, or uses, a participle e.g charged for 8 hours, the battery can power the smartphone for a day. The participle is a verb that acts like an adjective. An adjective is a word used to qualify a noun by describing its property, status, relation, or quantity e.g the big, blue battery. To convert a verb into a participle, simply add the conjugate ending -ing, -ed, or -en. If the conjugate suffix used is -ing, e.g charging in the charging battery, then the participle is defined as a present participle. If the conjugate suffix used is -ed or -en e.g the charged battery, then the participle is defined as a past participle.
  • If a subject and verb are added to a phrase, then it becomes a clause that can convey an idea. For example, charging the battery will power the smartphone. The verbal noun in this sentence is charging, and the subject and object are the smartphone and battery respectively. There are 2 types of clauses:
    1. Independent Clause: This can function as a complete sentence e.g the smartphone battery must be recharged. When used alongside other clauses in a sentence, it serves as the main clause.
    2. Dependent Clause: It serves to provide additional information about the main clause. As such, it cannot exist as a standalone sentence. A dependent clause that contains a noun phrase is called a noun clause, and it provides more information about the noun in the main clause. A dependent clause that contains an adverb is called an adverbial clause, while a dependent clause that contains an adjective is called an adjectival clause.
  • A sentence can be made up of an independent clause, or a main clause and a dependent clause(s).
  • Sentences can be grouped together into a paragraph.
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