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What is an embedded clause?

What is an embedded clause?
Understand and use embedded clauses with confidence with our plain-English parents' guide, including examples and details of how this aspect of sentence construction is taught in Key Stage 2 grammar.

What is an embedded clause?

An embedded clause is a clause used in the middle of another clause.

In other words, an embedded clause is a clause (a group of words that includes a subject and a verb) that is within a main clause, usually marked by commas.

Information related to the sentence topic is put into the middle of the sentence to give the reader more information and enhance the sentence.

Commas are usually (but not always) used to separate the clause that has been embedded from the main clause.

If you removed the embedded clause the main clause would stand alone as a complete sentence. However the embedded clause is reliant on the main clause so it does not make sense on its own (it's a subordinate clause).

For example:

The coat, which was old, had a hole in the pocket.

The main clause makes sense on its own: The coat had a hole in the pocket.
The embedded clause doesn't make sense on its own: which was old
The embedded clause has to be supported and explained by the main clause in order to make sense.

An embedded clause usually begins using the words which, who or where and relates to the noun or pronoun in the main clause.

When are embedded clauses taught in primary school?

In Year 2 children will be taught to use the term ‘clause’.

By Year 3 and 4 children are expected to begin extending the range of their sentences by using more than one clause in their writing. It is most likely that teachers will introduce the idea of an embedded clause to add information into children’s writing at this stage.

In Year 5 and 6 children should be confidently using a range of sentence types with more than one clause in their writing.

How will embedded clauses be taught in the classroom?

The national curriculum, which was revised in 2014, states that children should be explicitly taught grammatical terminology. Therefore, teachers will introduce the concept using the terms ‘clause’ and ‘embedded clause’.

The children will be shown examples and the teacher will model how to write and use embedded clauses correctly to the whole class or small groups.

The children may be given grammar activities to complete independently or in small groups such as:

  • Identifying and highlighting examples of embedded clauses in a text or sentence.
  • Adding given embedded clauses to simple sentences.
  • Adding their own embedded clauses to simple sentences.
  • Chopping up and manipulating sentences written on pieces of card.
  • Writing their own embedded clauses when completing pieces of extended writing.
  • Identifying or adding embedded clauses when editing their own pieces of extended writing.

Use embedded clauses correctly by:

  1. Using commas to embed a clause in a sentence.
  2. Adding information that links with the topic of the sentence.
  3. Start the clause with which, who or where.

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