i love english language

Clause Analysis for Students

Clause Analysis for Students

You have to show that they can analyse clauses to get the highest marks.

Whenever you analyse a text, you must choose one sentence which you can take apart and comment on its structure:

1.       The type of sentence it is:




          Compound Complex


2.       The function of the sentence:






3.       The make up of the sentence, labelling the sentence’s components:

          Main Clause

          Subordinate Clause

          Prepositional Phrase / Adverbial

          Non-Finite Clause

          Relative Clause

          Noun Phrase

          Embedded/Parenthetic Phrase

          Embedded/Parenthetic Clause




          Verb Phrase


4.       The order of the sentence’s components:


          Which component is put at the front of the sentence = Fronting, Front Loading, Front Focus

          Which component is hidden away inside the sentence = Embedded

          Which component is tagged on at the end = End Focus

This skill has to be practised slavishly to reinforce the kinds of things that you can say about sentences, clauses and phrases – in terms of how the author is drawing the reader’s attention a certain way or create a specific impact.

Every phrase or clause will have a specific reason for

a)       its inclusion

b)       its position


You must give specific reasons for each of these aspects of a sentence component


Madonna finished the North American leg of her Sticky and Sweet tour last week in front of 50,000 people at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, before heading south to Mexico City.                    (bbc.co.uk)

a)       Madonna finished the North American leg –Main Clause

b)       of her Sticky and Sweet tour – Prepositional Phrase / Adverbial

c)       last week – Prepositional Phrase / Adverbial

d)       in front of 50,000 people – Prepositional Phrase/ Adverbial

e)       at Dolphin Stadium – Prepositional Phrase/ Adverbial

f)         in Miami– Prepositional Phrase/ Adverbial

g)       before heading south – Non-Finite Clause

h)       to Mexico City– Prepositional Phrase / Adverbial

i)         Madonna – subject

j)         the North American leg – object & noun phrase

…so what can be said once you deconstruct the sentence?

In the typical fashion of newspaper reports, this never ending sentence has adverbials tagged on at the end in order to add on more and more information about the sentence’s subject or object, (object in this case), before introducing a non-finite clause and its attendant prepositional phrase to squeeze in a little more information about just what else the sentence’s subject will be up to – namely “heading south”. The effect is to create a sense that Madonna has packed a great deal into her hectic lifestyle, whereas the basics of what Madonna did could be reported much more succinctly in a single simple sentence such as “Madonna is touring in North and Central America.”

But it’s all down to what sentence you pick out. A sentence such as:

Running through the tall grass, with the morning’s dew clinging to her skin, Bingo thought of Rex, of his long hair and of his jagged looks until she felt a sharper wetness on her forehead and lost her sight as the blood from the wound streamed into her eyes.      The Love That Dare Not Speak its Name – M Roughly

a)       Running through the tall grass – Non-Finite Clause

b)       with the morning’s dew clinging to her skin – Non-Finite Clause

c)       Bingo thought of Rex – Main Clause

d)       of his long hair and of his jagged looks – Prepositional Phrases

e)       until she felt a sharper wetness – Subordinate Clause

f)         on her forehead – Prepositional Phrase / Adverbial

g)       then she lost her vision – Subordinate Clause

h)       as the blood from the wound streamed into her eyes – Subordinate Clause

In this extremely complex sentence, the main subject – Bingo – is at the centre of many different actions and states. However, it is her running which is foregrounded, as the non-finite clause “Running through the tall grass” is placed at the start of the sentence. Bingo’s loss of vision is also pushed towards the top of the reader’s awareness as it is placed at the end of this sentence and so the author is employing end focus to ensure that the reader is left with this particular image. Rex – the main clause’s object, despite having two prepositional phrases appended to it – is lost in the centre of this sentence and might even fail to register on the reader’s attention.

One Response

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  1. mick said, on August 12, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I also love the English language and this page made the breakdown of sentences easier for me.The g clause doesn’t match the sentence though.This doesn’t matter as the page as been a valueable lesson for me.Another way of saying the same thing would be that I have a rapport with the teacher.So would apprecieate more of the same.

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