"Als ze zwakker waren, zouden ze het niet kunnen doen."
Translation:If they were weaker, they would not be able to do it.
The sub clause in this sentence is the first part 'Als ze zwakker waren'. In the sub clause, the verb(s) are placed at the end.
If the sub clause is in front of the main clause, the sub clause will act like one word, so the verb comes right after the sub clause. And like other cases, the other verbs of the main clause are (also) placed at the end of the sentence.
It's a part of a sentence. For instance, in my previous sentence, "it's a part of a sentence", both sentence and clause coincide. But in sentences like "I went to the doctor because I wasn't feeling well", we have one sentence that is formed by two clauses: "I went to the dr" and "I wasn't feeling well", which have been joined by "because". Sometimes clauses can be independent, that is, they can be a sentence conveying meaning in their own right.
An example of this could be "he cooked and I did the dishes" Independent clauses are joined by coordinating conjunctions (and,or, but, thus, therefore, probably there are others that I cannot recall now).
Other times clauses can be dependent. An example of this could be the sentence I gave you at the beginning, where "because I wasn't feeling well" is a dependent clause that is subordinated to the main clause "I went to the dr". Subordinated clauses always depend on a main clause to convey meaning in a sensical manner, and are introduced by coordinating conjunctions (because, although, even though, despite, if, whether, unless, since, so that, so, when, meanwhile, while... those are the ones I remember for now).
Then you also have dependent embedded clauses, which are different from subordinated clauses (even though both are dependent). In order to explain you further I should go back to my college notes (since I'm not a grammar teacher... just studying to become a certified English teacher), but I can give you an example: "my brother, who is a musician, didn't finish secondary school". Here we have a main clause, "my brother didn't finish secondary school", in which we have inserted another clause ("who is a musician") that provides more information about my brother. Typically embedded clauses come after the subject of the sentence (well, in a way they are a part of the subject, to be more precise technically) and are introduced by a relative pronoun (who, which, that, whose... ).
Hope this helps! :)
Oh, btw, I forgot to add: at the "heart" of each clause there's always a verb. So, no verb, no clause: you're in the presence of something else.
Hi, what would be the difference between "Als ze zwakker waren, zouden ze het niet kunnen doen" and "Als ze zwakker waren, konden ze het niet doen"?
Thanks in advance! :)
I think the difference is that in zouden ze het niet kunnen doen we have a conditional, while in konden ze het niet doen we just have a simple past tense.
The confusion here comes from the fact that in English could is used both for the conditional and the simple past, while in Dutch there are two different forms.
Hope this helps!