Words, phrases and clauses


A sentence is made up of words put together to do a certain job. Words are the smallest meaningful units of a sentence.

For example:

barks / dog / angry

Each of the above words work differently in a sentence:

  • barks is a verb – a word type that tells what a noun is doing or being
  • dog is a noun – a word type that names people, places, things and ideas
  • angry is an adjective – a word type that describes a noun

Words are linked to create a phrase to build up the sentence.


A phrase is used in place of a word to give more information about it. A noun phrase is built around a noun, making the noun the head word of a noun phrase.

For example:

The angry dog.

In this noun phrase, the noun ‘dog’ is the head word.

A phrase that comes immediately before a verb is the verb’s subject. A phrase that follows a verb is the verb’s object.

  • The angry dog barks. – 'dog' is the subject
  • The angry dog barks at the postman at the door. – 'postman' is the object

Phrases are linked to a main verb to make a clause.


A clause is one or more phrases linked to a verb that work very tightly together.

For example:

The angry dog barks.

In this clause - which could also be used as a sentence - the noun phrase is 'the angry dog' and the verb is 'barks'. The head word of the noun phrase is the noun ‘dog’.