Theory : analysis (clauses)




 Our investigations have now included all the machinery of the simple sentence, which is the unit of speech.

Our further study will be in sentences which are combinations of simple sentences, made merely for convenience and smoothness, to avoid the tiresome repetition of short ones of monotonous similarity.

Next to the simple sentence stands the complex sentence. The basis of it is two or more simple sentences, which are so united that one member is the main one,-the backbone,-the other members subordinate to it, or dependent on it; as in this sentence,-

“When such a spirit breaks forth into complaint, we are aware how great must be the suffering that extorts the murmur.”

The relation of the parts is as follows:-

 we are aware _______ _____ | | __| when such a spirit breaks |  forth into complaint, |  how great must be the suffering |  that extorts the murmur. 

This arrangement shows to the eye the picture that the sentence forms in the mind,-how the first clause is held in suspense by the mind till the second, we are aware, is taken in; then we recognize this as the main statement; and the next one, how great … suffering, drops into its place as subordinate to we are aware; and the last, that … murmur, logically depends on suffering.

Hence the following definition:-

368. A complex sentence is one containing one main or independent clause (also called the principal proposition or clause), and one or more subordinate or dependent clauses.

369. The elements of a complex sentence are the same as those of the simple sentence; that is, each clause has its subject, predicate, object, complements, modifiers, etc.

But there is this difference: whereas the simple sentence always has a word or a phrase for subject, object, complement, and modifier, the complex sentence has statements or clauses for these places.


370. A clause is a division of a sentence, containing a verb with its subject.

Hence the term clause may refer to the main division of the complex sentence, or it may be applied to the others,-the dependent or subordinate clauses.

371. A principal, main, or independent clause is one making a statement without the help of any other clause.

A subordinate or dependent clause is one which makes a statement depending upon or modifying some word in the principal clause.

372. As to their office in the sentence, clauses are divided into NOUN, ADJECTIVE, and ADVERB clauses, according as they are equivalent in use to nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

Noun Clauses.

373. Noun clauses have the following uses:-

(1) Subject: “That such men should give prejudiced views of America is not a matter of surprise.”

(2) Object of a verb, verbal, or the equivalent of a verb: (a) “I confess these stories, for a time, put an end to my fancies;” (b) “I am aware [I know] that a skillful illustrator of the immortal bard would have swelled the materials.”

Just as the object noun, pronoun, infinitive, etc., is retained after a passive verb (Sec. 352, 5), so the object clause is retained, and should not be called an adjunct of the subject; for example, “We are persuaded that a thread runs through all things;” “I was told that the house had not been shut, night or day, for a hundred years.”

(3) Complement: “The terms of admission to this spectacle are, that he have a certain solid and intelligible way of living.”

(4) Apposition. (a) Ordinary apposition, explanatory of some noun or its equivalent: “Cecil’s saying of Sir Walter Raleigh, ‘ I know that he can toil terribly,’ is an electric touch.”

(b) After “it introductory” (logically this is a subject clause, but it is often treated as in apposition with it): “It was the opinion of some, that this might be the wild huntsman famous in German legend.”

(5) Object of a preposition: “At length he reached to where the ravine had opened through the cliffs.”

Notice that frequently only the introductory word is the object of the preposition, and the whole clause is not; thus, “The rocks presented a high impenetrable wall, over which the torrent came tumbling.”

374. Here are to be noticed certain sentences seemingly complex, with a noun clause in apposition with it; but logically they are nothing but simple sentences. But since they are complex in form, attention is called to them here; for example,-

“Alas! it is we ourselves that are getting buried alive under this avalanche of earthly impertinences.”

To divide this into two clauses-(a) It is we ourselves, (b) that are … impertinences-would be grammatical; but logically the sentence is, We ourselves are getting … impertinences, and it is … that is merely a framework used to effect emphasis. The sentence shows how it may lose its pronominal force.

Other examples of this construction are,-

“It is on the understanding, and not on the sentiment, of a nation, that all safe legislation must be based.”

“Then it is that deliberative Eloquence lays aside the plain attire of her daily occupation.”


Tell how each noun clause is used in these sentences:-

1. I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow.

2. But the fact is, I was napping.

3. Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the aspect of the building.

4. Except by what he could see for himself, he could know nothing.

5. Whatever he looks upon discloses a second sense.

6. It will not be pretended that a success in either of these kinds is quite coincident with what is best and inmost in his mind.

7. The reply of Socrates, to him who asked whether he should choose a wife, still remains reasonable, that, whether he should choose one or not, he would repent it.

8. What history it had, how it changed from shape to shape, no man will ever know.

9. Such a man is what we call an original man.

10. Our current hypothesis about Mohammed, that he was a scheming impostor, a falsehood incarnate, that his religion is a mere mass of quackery and fatuity, begins really to be no longer tenable to any one.

Adjective Clauses.

375. As the office of an adjective is to modify, the only use of an adjective clause is to limit or describe some noun, or equivalent of a noun: consequently the adjective may modify any noun, or equivalent of a noun, in the sentence.

The adjective clause may be introduced by the relative pronouns who, which, that, but, as; sometimes by the conjunctions when, where, whither, whence, wherein, whereby, etc.

Frequently there is no connecting word, a relative pronoun being understood.

376. Adjective clauses may modify-

(1) The subject: “The themes it offers for contemplation are too vast for their capacities;” “Those who see the Englishman only in town, are apt to form an unfavorable opinion of his social character.”

(2) The object: “From this piazza Ichabod entered the hall, which formed the center of the mansion.”

(3) The complement: “The animal he bestrode was a broken-down plow-horse, that had outlived almost everything but his usefulness;” “It was such an apparition as is seldom to be met with in broad daylight.”

(4) Other words: “He rode with short stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up to the pommel of the saddle;” “No whit anticipating the oblivion which awaited their names and feats, the champions advanced through the lists;” “Charity covereth a multitude of sins, in another sense than that in which it is said to do so in Scripture.”


Pick out the adjective clauses, and tell what each one modifies; i.e., whether subject, object, etc.

1. There were passages that reminded me perhaps too much of Massillon.

2. I walked home with Calhoun, who said that the principles which I had avowed were just and noble.

3. Other men are lenses through which we read our own minds.

4. In one of those celestial days when heaven and earth meet and adorn each other, it seems a pity that we can only spend it once.

5. One of the maidens presented a silver cup, containing a rich mixture of wine and spice, which Rowena tasted.

6. No man is reason or illumination, or that essence we were looking for.

7. In the moment when he ceases to help us as a cause, he begins to help us more as an effect.

8. Socrates took away all ignominy from the place, which could not be a prison whilst he was there.

9. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear ghosts except in our long-established Dutch settlements.

10. From the moment you lose sight of the land you have left, all is vacancy.

11. Nature waited tranquilly for the hour to be struck when man should arrive.

Adverbial Clauses.

377. The adverb clause takes the place of an adverb in modifying a verb, a verbal, an adjective, or an adverb. The student has met with many adverb clauses in his study of the subjunctive mood and of subordinate conjunctions; but they require careful study, and will be given in detail, with examples.

378. Adverb clauses are of the following kinds:

(1) TIME: “As we go, the milestones are grave-stones;” “He had gone but a little way before he espied a foul fiend coming;” “When he was come up to Christian, he beheld him with a disdainful countenance.”

(2) PLACE: “Wherever the sentiment of right comes in, it takes precedence of everything else;” “He went several times to England, where he does not seem to have attracted any attention.”

(3) REASON, or CAUSE: “His English editor lays no stress on his discoveries, since he was too great to care to be original;” “I give you joy that truth is altogether wholesome.”

(4) MANNER: “The knowledge of the past is valuable only as it leads us to form just calculations with respect to the future;” “After leaving the whole party under the table, he goes away as if nothing had happened.”

(5) DEGREE, or COMPARISON: “They all become wiser than they were;” “The right conclusion is, that we should try, so far as we can, to make up our shortcomings;” “Master Simon was in as chirping a humor as a grasshopper filled with dew [is];” “The broader their education is, the wider is the horizon of their thought.” The first clause in the last sentence is dependent, expressing the degree in which the horizon, etc., is wider.

(6) PURPOSE: “Nature took us in hand, shaping our actions, so that we might not be ended untimely by too gross disobedience.”

(7) RESULT, or CONSEQUENCE: “He wrote on the scale of the mind itself, so that all things have symmetry in his tablet;” “The window was so far superior to every other in the church, that the vanquished artist killed himself from mortification.”

(8) CONDITION: “If we tire of the saints, Shakespeare is our city of refuge;” “Who cares for that, so thou gain aught wider and nobler?” “You can die grandly, and as goddesses would die were goddesses mortal.”

(9) CONCESSION, introduced by indefinite relatives, adverbs, and adverbial conjunctions,- whoever, whatever, however, etc.: “But still, however good she may be as a witness, Joanna is better;” “Whatever there may remain of illiberal in discussion, there is always something illiberal in the severer aspects of study.”

These mean no matter how good, no matter what remains, etc.


Pick out the adverbial clauses in the following sentences; tell what kind each is, and what it modifies:-

1. As I was clearing away the weeds from this epitaph, the little sexton drew me on one side with a mysterious air, and informed me in a low voice that once upon a time, on a dark wintry night, when the wind was unruly, howling and whistling, banging about doors and windows, and twirling weathercocks, so that the living were frightened out of their beds, and even the dead could not sleep quietly in their graves, the ghost of honest Preston was attracted by the well-known call of “waiter,” and made its sudden appearance just as the parish clerk was singing a stave from the “mirrie garland of Captain Death.”

2. If the children gathered about her, as they sometimes did, Pearl would grow positively terrible in her puny wrath, snatching up stones to fling at them, with shrill, incoherent exclamations, that made her mother tremble because they had so much the sound of a witch’s anathemas.

3. The spell of life went forth from her ever-creative spirit, and communicated itself to a thousand objects, as a torch kindles a flame wherever it may be applied.


379. These suggestions will be found helpful:-

(1) See that the sentence and all its parts are placed in the natural order of subject, predicate, object, and modifiers.

(2) First take the sentence as a whole; find the principal subject and principal predicate; then treat noun clauses as nouns, adjective clauses as adjectives modifying certain words, and adverb clauses as single modifying adverbs.

(3) Analyze each clause as a simple sentence. For example, in the sentence, “Cannot we conceive that Odin was a reality?”we is the principal subject; cannot conceive is the principal predicate; its object is that Odin was a reality, of which clause Odin is the subject, etc.

380. It is sometimes of great advantage to map out a sentence after analyzing it, so as to picture the parts and their relations. To take a sentence:-

“I cannot help thinking that the fault is in themselves, and that if the church and the cataract were in the habit of giving away their thoughts with that rash generosity which characterizes tourists, they might perhaps say of their visitors, ‘Well, if you are those men of whom we have heard so much, we are a little disappointed, to tell the truth.'”

This may be represented as follows:-

 I cannot help thinking ____________________ | _______________________| | | (a) THAT THE FAULT IS IN THEMSELVES, AND | | (b) [THAT] THEY MIGHT (PERHAPS) SAY OF THEIR VISITORS | ___________________ | | | _____________________________|_________________________________ | | | | | (a) We are (a little) disappointed | | O| ___________________________ | O| b| ________________________| | b| j| M| | j| e| o| (b) If you are those men | e| c| d| ___ | c| t| i| _________________________| | t| | f| M| | | | i| o| Of whom we have heard so much. | | | e| d. | |  r  | | _____________________________________________________| | M| | o| (a) If the church and ... that rash generosity | d| __________ | i| | | f| _______________________________________________| | i| | | e| | (b) Which characterizes tourists. | r| |    



(1) Find the principal clause.

(2) Analyze it according to Sec. 364.

(3) Analyze the dependent clauses according to Sec. 364. This of course includes dependent clauses that depend on other dependent clauses, as seen in the “map” (Sec. 380).


(a) Analyze the following complex sentences:-

1. Take the place and attitude which belong to you.

2. That mood into which a friend brings us is his dominion over us.

3. True art is only possible on the condition that every talent has its apotheosis somewhere.

4. The deep eyes, of a light hazel, were as full of sorrow as of inspiration.

5. She is the only church that has been loyal to the heart and soul of man, that has clung to her faith in the imagination.

6. She has never lost sight of the truth that the product human nature is composed of the sum of flesh and spirit.

7. But now that she has become an establishment, she begins to perceive that she made a blunder in trusting herself to the intellect alone.

8. Before long his talk would wander into all the universe, where it was uncertain what game you would catch, or whether any.

9. The night proved unusually dark, so that the two principals had to tie white handkerchiefs round their elbows in order to descry each other.

10. Whether she would ever awake seemed to depend upon an accident.

11. Here lay two great roads, not so much for travelers that were few, as for armies that were too many by half.

12. It was haunted to that degree by fairies, that the parish priest was obliged to read mass there once a year.

13. More than one military plan was entered upon which she did not approve.

14. As surely as the wolf retires before cities, does the fairy sequester herself from the haunts of the licensed victualer.

15. M. Michelet is anxious to keep us in mind that this bishop was but an agent of the English.

16. Next came a wretched Dominican, that pressed her with an objection, which, if applied to the Bible, would tax every miracle with unsoundness.

17. The reader ought to be reminded that Joanna D’Arc was subject to an unusually unfair trial.

18. Now, had she really testified this willingness on the scaffold, it would have argued nothing at all but the weakness of a genial nature.

19. And those will often pity that weakness most, who would yield to it least.

20. Whether she said the word is uncertain.

21. This is she, the shepherd girl, counselor that had none for herself, whom I choose, bishop, for yours.

22. Had they been better chemists, had we been worse, the mixed result, namely, that, dying for them, the flower should revive for us, could not have been effected.

23. I like that representation they have of the tree.

24. He was what our country people call an old one.

25. He thought not any evil happened to men of such magnitude as false opinion.

26. These things we are forced to say, if we must consider the effort of Plato to dispose of Nature,-which will not be disposed of.

27. He showed one who was afraid to go on foot to Olympia, that it was no more than his daily walk, if continuously extended, would easily reach.

28. What can we see or acquire but what we are?

29. Our eyes are holden that we cannot see things that stare us in the face, until the hour arrives when the mind is ripened.

30. There is good reason why we should prize this liberation.

(b) First analyze, then map out as in Sec. 380, the following complex sentences:-

1. The way to speak and write what shall not go out of fashion, is to speak and write sincerely.

2. The writer who takes his subject from his ear, and not from his heart, should know that he has lost as much as he has gained.

3. “No book,” said Bentley, “was ever written down by any but itself.”

4. That which we do not believe, we cannot adequately say, though we may repeat the words never so often.

5. We say so because we feel that what we love is not in your will, but above it.

6. It makes no difference how many friends I have, and what content I can find in conversing with each, if there be one to whom I am not equal.

7. In every troop of boys that whoop and run in each yard and square, a new-comer is as well and accurately weighed in the course of a few days, and stamped with his right number, as if he had undergone a formal trial of his strength, speed, and temper.

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