Like a sentence, a clause contains a subject and a verb, but it forms part of a larger sentence.
Every sentence contains a main clause. This can be modified in a variety of ways by one or more subordinate clauses. If a subordinate clause modifies a noun phrase, it is called a relative clause. If it modifies a verb or the entire main clause, it is called an adverbial clause. And if it plays the part of a noun, it is called a noun clause.
In addition, a sentence can contain more than one main clause.
A relative clause is a clause that modifies a noun. Relative clauses follow the nouns they modify, and they usually start with one of the relative pronouns ci and cual:
- La om ci ia abita asi ia vade a New York. – The man who lived here went to New York.
- La poma cual ia cade de mea saco es aora noncomable. – The apple which fell from my bag is now inedible.
For clarity, a relative clause can be separated from the rest of the sentence by commas, especially if it’s long or complicated:
- La poma, cual ia cade de mea saco en la fango a matina ier, es aora noncomable. – The apple, which fell from my bag into the mud yesterday morning, is now inedible.
Some relative clauses are not essential to the meaning of the sentence, but simply add a comment in passing. Such clauses are always set off by commas:
- La can, ci ave manxas negra, ia morde la polisior. – The dog, which has black markings, bit the policeman.
- Mea padre, ci ia jubila, abita en Mexico. – My father, who is retired, lives in Mexico.
- Esta jus, cual Ana ia fa, ave un bon sabor. – This juice, which Anna made, tastes good.
Ci and cual can behave as either the subject or the object of the relative clause. Objects normally follow the verb, but when one of these is the object, it precedes both the subject and the verb:
- La fem ci me ama veni de Frans. – The woman (whom) I love comes from France.
- La robot cual me ia construi no opera. – The robot I built doesn’t work.
- Ta ce nos vade a mea casa, cual es prosima. – Let’s go to my house, which is nearby.
When the relative pronoun is the object of a preposition, the preposition comes first:
- La fem de ci nos parla labora a mea ofisia. – The woman of whom we speak works at my office.
- Tua libro, en cual me ia scrive sua nom, es sur la table. – Your book, in which I wrote her name, is on the table.
When de ci or de cual introduces a possessed noun within the relative clause, that noun is usually introduced by sua for clarity:
- Esta fem, de ci sua sposo labora en la banco, es un cocor eselente. – This woman, whose husband works at the bank, is an excellent cook.
- La fem, de ci tu conose sua sposo, labora a mea ofisia. – The woman, whose husband you know, works at my office.
- La fem, de ci tu ia dona la letera a sua sposo, es encantante. – The woman, whose husband you gave the letter to, is charming.
- Mea auto, de cual sua motor es rompeda, es aora dejetada. – My car, whose motor is broken, is now garbage.
In some languages, a relative clause can modify the whole of the preceding clause. In Elefen, if that would be ambiguous, an expression such as lo cual, e lo, e esta or e acel can be used instead:
- El pote salta a un metre alta, e esta ia surprende me. – He can jump a meter high, which surprised me.
- Me ia eleje aprende elefen, lo cual ia es un deside multe bon. – I chose to learn Elefen, which was a very good decision.
Another way to start a relative clause is with a relative adverb:
- Me labora en Paris, do me abita. – I work in Paris, where I live.
- El va visita en julio, cuando la clima es bon. – He will visit in July, when the weather is good.
- Acel es la razona perce Juan ia parti. – That’s the reason why Juan left.
Such relative clauses are often similar to adverbial clauses:
- Me labora do me abita. – I work where I live.
- El va visita cuando la clima es bon. – He will visit when the weather is good.
An adverbial clause modifies either the verb of the main clause or the main clause itself. An adverbial clause is introduced by one of the adverb subordinators (como, cuando, cuanto, do) or one of the special subordinators si, car, afin, and ca:
- Me no teme la can, car el es multe peti. – I am not afraid of the dog, because it is very small.
- Si los redui tro rapida sua pesa, los va regania lo. – If they lose weight too quickly, they will regain it.
- Me core afin la rinoseros no catura me. – I’m running so that the rhinos don’t catch me.
- Esta es plu labora ca me ia previde. – This is more work than I expected.
- El ia scrive cuando sua madre ia demanda. – He wrote when his mother asked.
- El dise ce el es felis do el abita. – He says that he is happy where he lives.
- On no ia permete ce me fa la cosas como me ia desira. – I wasn’t allowed to do things as I wanted.
An adverbial clause introduced by an adverb subordinator (como, cuando, cuanto, do) can be thought of as an abbreviated relative clause. For example, the last three examples above can also be expressed as follows:
- El ia scrive a la ora cuando sua madre ia demanda. – He wrote at the time his mother asked.
- El dise ce el es felis a la loca do el abita. – He says that he is happy at the place where he lives.
- On no ia permete ce me fa la cosas en la modo como me desira. – I wasn’t allowed to do things in the way I wanted.
A noun clause functions like a noun: it can be the subject or object of a verb or preposition. Noun clauses are introduced by the special subordinators ce or esce, by one of the pronoun subordinators ci and cual, or by one of the adverb subordinators.
To see if a clause is really a noun clause, substitute “he”, “she”, “it”, or “they” for the clause. If that produces a good sentence, the clause is a noun clause. Noun clauses are typically objects of verbs of thinking, sensing, or emotion:
- Me vide do tu es. – I see where you are.
- Cuando me va parti, me no sabe. – When I will depart, I don’t know.
- Me sabe de do tu veni. – I know where you come from.
- Me sabe ci ia dise acel. – I know who said that.
- Me ia oia cual tu ia dise. – I heard what you said.
- Me pote divina cual el leje. – I can guess which one he’s reading.
Many noun clauses are introduced by the special subordinators ce (“that”) or esce (“whether”):
- Me pensa ce el es bela. – I think that she is beautiful.
- Me pensa ce el pote salta a un metre alta. – I think that he can jump a meter high.
- Me pensa ce si. – I think so.
- Me duta esce el pote salta a un metre alta. – I doubt whether/that he can jump a meter high.
Noun clauses often report what someone has said, thought, or asked. In all cases, the tense of the verb in the noun clause remains the same as that in the original speech, thought, or question:
- Me ia dise: “Me veni de London.” → Me ia dise ce me veni de London.
- I said: “I come from London.” → I said that I came from London.
- El pensa: “La tren ia es tarda.” → El pensa ce la tren ia es tarda.
- She thinks: “The train was late.” → She thinks the train was late.
- El ia demanda: “Cuando nos va parti?” → El ia demanda cuando nos va parti.
- He asked: “When are we going to leave?” → He asked when we would leave.
- Me va vole sabe: “Do la selebra es?” → Me va vole sabe do la selebra es.
- I’ll want to know: “Where’s the party?” → I’ll want to know where the party is.
Relative and adverbial clauses can sometimes be confused with noun clauses. To clarify that a relative or adverbial clause is meant, add a noun or pronoun before cual or ci:
- Me no comprende la ata cual tu intende. – I don’t understand the action you intend.
- Me ia oia lo cual tu ia dise. – I heard what you said.
- Me no conose el ci tu ia indica. – I don’t know the person who you pointed to.
- Me vide la loca do tu es. – I see the place where you are.
- Me no sabe la ora cuando me va parti. – I don’t know the hour when I will leave.
An infinitive verb can also be thought of as introducing a type of noun clause.
Two main clauses can be linked together into a single sentence by means of coordinating conjunctions. A comma is often included before the conjunction:
- Me ia desira la auto, ma me no ia ave la mone. – I wanted the car, but I didn’t have the money.
- Me desira un bon carera e me vole ance trova un sposa bela. – I want a good career and I also want to find a beautiful wife.
Such clauses can stand as independent sentences, with or without conjunctions:
- El ia vole canta e el ia vole dansa, ma el ia teme. – He wanted to sing and he wanted to dance, but he was afraid.
- El ia vole canta. E el ia vole dansa. Ma el ia teme. – He want to sing. And he wanted to dance. But he was afraid.
- El ia vole canta. El ia vole dansa. El ia teme. – He wanted to sing. He wanted to dance. He was afraid.