This is a special lesson. It is based around my daily word activity. Today though it is more about grammar – thinking about different types of clauses. More than that, it is about how to improve your grammar.
There is an exercise at the end that is one of my favourite exercises. It can be truly great for learning. I find it is an interesting way to learn better grammar and grammar does tend to be boring. If you do it, please post your replies here as comments.
Today’s daily word is
This is one of the more technical words on the academic word list and is used chiefly for describing language (think grammar) and in law (think contracts). Put very simply, a clause is a part of a sentence with a main verb, or a part of a contract.
A very quick guide to English sentence grammar!!
There are a number of different types of clause in English. It may help your grammar to look through this (incomplete) list. You don’t really need to know the names, but you definitely want to understand the ideas – good writing (and speaking) involves being able to write (and speak) in different ways. This is why IELTS is marked for range of grammar (different structures you use) and not just for accuracy of grammar (how many mistakes you make).
main clause: This is a clause that is enough by itself – it can also be a sentence. This is the simplest type of sentence – that doesn’t mean it is to be avoided – simple things should be stated simply.
I like playing online poker.
co-ordinate clause: This is a clause when you link two ideas together in a fairly simple way. You really need to make sure you can master these before you move on. The keys words are and but or so yet nor or for. The idea behind all these words are that they give equal emphasis to both parts of the sentence:
I like playing online poker and I enjoy doing crosswords too. [Both my poker habit and my crossword habit are equally important]
subordinate clauses: These are sort of the opposite to co-ordinate clauses. They are more complex to make, but equally important. The difference is that in a subordinate clause one part of the sentence is more important than the other. This is a vital bit of language because it gives you new ways to join ideas together. That’s good. There are loads of key words here. You should recognise these ones as a start: because, while, if, since, as, though, unless, in order that, provided that and the list goes on
I like playing online poker because I sometimes win money!
concessive clauses: These are more complex clauses. This time you add another idea – a different idea. You need to master this type of clause because it allows you to join up your writing. Key words here are but although however although while etc
While I like playing online poker, I enjoy reading and writing even more.
Although I like playing online poker, I know that it is not entirely healthy.
relative clause: This is another way to join two ideas together. Just to confuse you, there are two types of relative clause. Why? Because we can join ideas together in two different ways.
defining relative clause: This is when you state exactly what you mean – this is very academic and so you should master this skill. The key words here are who when which that etc
I enjoy playing online poker which is the form of poker found on internet sites. [I’m explaining what online poker is if you didn’t know – this type of clause you need for explaining]
extra information relative clause: This is when you just say something more – something extra that you can take out and the sentence still makes sense. One way to think of this is that you could brackets ( ) around the clause. We don’t do that in English, we use commas , , but the idea is the same.
I enjoy playing online poker, which is one of my worse habits, but I enjoy crosswords even more. [I’m just saying something else here – trying to be more interesting]
I enjoy playing online poker but I enjoy crosswords even more. [This still makes sense even though I have taken the clause out]
I enjoy playing online poker, (which is one of my worse habits) but I enjoy crosswords even more.[This shows you how the punctuation works]
Do an exercise
Improving your range of grammar is vital. Here is one way to do it. The key here is that you take a sentence/idea that is true for you. If you do that, then it will all mean more to you and then you are more likely to learn. Learning is about doing things that are interesting. I play online poker and do crosswords, you probably don’t!
1 Take a short sentence like I did:
I enjoy playing online poker
2. Make a co-ordinate clause, just add something using and but etc
3. Now make a subordinate clause. Start simply with because, then try other ones. See how many you can make. Play with the language.
4. Now try a concessive clause. Just add a different idea using while etc. You should see now that you are making lots of different types of sentence. This is great for your grammar.
5. Try both types of relative clause: These are trickier because there are problems with word choice and punctuation. But for the time being, relax. We are aiming for variety for now. Accuracy can come later. Grammar is not just about getting it right, it’s also about doing different things.
If all this was Greek to you – a nice idiom meaning you didn’t understand it at all – try these great explanations of subordinate and co-ordinate clauses. They come with free handouts and exercises: