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Elliptical Clauses are grammatically incomplete in the sense that they are missing either the relative pronoun (dependent word) that normally introduces such a clause or something from the predicate in the second part of a comparison. The missing parts of the elliptical clause can be guessed from the context and most readers are not aware that anything is missing. In fact, elliptical clauses are regarded as both useful and correct, even in formal prose, because they are often elegant, efficient means of expression. (The omitted words are noted in brackets below).

(Click on the words and above for further help with their use.)

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Clauses are combined in three different ways: coordination, subordination, and by means of a semicolon. Coordination involves joining independent clauses with one of the coordinating conjunctions: and sometimes* Clauses thus connected are usually nicely balanced in length and import.

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Learning the various terms used to define and classify clauses can be a vocabulary lesson in itself. This digital handout categorizes clauses into independent and dependent clauses. This simply means that some clauses can stand by themselves, as separate sentences, and some can't. Another term for dependent clause is subordinate clause: this means that the clause is subordinate to another element (the independent clause) and depends on that other element for its meaning. The subordinate clause is created by a or dependent word.

Finally, everybody's favorite clause is the Santa Clause, which needs no further definition:

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Some relative clauses will refer to more than a single word in the preceding text; they can modify an entire clause or even a series of clauses.

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A relative clause that refers to or modifies entire clauses in this manner is called a sentential clause. Sometimes the "which" of a sentential clause will get tucked into the clause as the determiner of a noun:

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Independent Clauses could stand by themselves as discrete sentences, except that when they do stand by themselves, separated from other clauses, they're normally referred to simply as sentences, not clauses. The ability to recognize a clause and to know when a clause is capable of acting as an independent unit is essential to correct writing and is especially helpful in avoiding and .

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Clauses are also classified as restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. (The words essential and nonessential are sometimes used and mean the same thing as restrictive and nonrestrictive, respectively. British grammarians will make this same distinction by referring to clauses with the terms defining and non-defining.) A nonrestrictive clause is not essential to the meaning of the sentence; it can be removed from the sentence without changing its basic meaning. Nonrestrictive clauses are often set apart from the rest of the sentence by a comma or a pair of commas (if it's in the middle of a sentence).

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And it had another advantage, too: The stairs leading down to it were open to the elements. On snowy nights, that meant being very careful descending to the bar, and being even more careful toddling back up them hours later. But it also meant sitting inside this warm bunker of a bar, with its big glass wall facing the stairs, and watching the snow eddy and fall just feet from you. You’d get a gust of wind when the door opened—a little reminder of what you’re missing, a light dusting of snow on the floor—and then the door would close, the snow would melt, and warmth would prevail.

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Relative clauses are dependent clauses introduced by a ( and ). Relative clauses can be either restrictive or nonrestrictive. Review the section on for additional help in determining whether relative clauses are restrictive or nonrestrictive (parenthetical or not) and whether commas should be used to set them off from the rest of the sentence. In a relative clause, the relative pronoun is the subject of the verb (remember that all clauses contain a subject-verb relationship) and refers to (relates to) something preceding the clause.