Difference Between a Phrase and a Clause

a Phrase vs a Clause

Phrase and Clause are two terms used in English grammar that have to be understood with difference. A phrase is a set of words that forms a conceptual unit. It is important to know that these string of words does not form a complete sentence. In other words the word ‘phrase’ refers to an idiomatic or short expression.

The word ‘phrase’ is figuratively used sometimes to indicate the sense of a ‘manner or mode of expression’ as in the expression ‘a nice turn of phrase.’ The term’ phrase’ is more often used in the field of music too in a different sense. It refers to a group of notes forming a distinct unit within a larger piece.

Sometimes the word ‘phrase’ is used as a verb also as in the sentence ‘he phrased the reply intelligently’. In this sentence the word ‘phrase’ is used as a verb and is used in the sense of ‘express in words’.

A clause on the other hand is a distinct part of a sentence and it includes a subject and predicate. This is the main difference between the two terms phrase and clause. In the subject of law the word ‘phrase’ refers to any single statement. It is important to note that a clause also like a phrase does not form a complete sentence. This is due to the fact that an object is often absent in a clause. It comprises of a subject and predicate only.

‘When I looked into it…..’ is a clause and is a part of the sentence ‘When I looked into it, I saw my own reflection’. Here in this sentence you can see that the part ‘when I looked into it’ consists of the subject, namely, ‘I’ and the predicate ‘looked into’ but it does not complete the sentence by itself. It is interesting to note that a phrase is a subset of a clause.