Independent and Dependent Clauses. What are they?

Among the basic components of sentences in the English language are the independent and dependent clauses. But first, let us define a clause. A clause is a group of words that contains both a subject and a verb. It may be a part of a sentence or a complete sentence itself already.

Examples:

  • Michelle laughed. 
      • (Mary=subject; laughed=verb; The clause is already a complete sentence.)
  • Michelle laughed because of the dog.
      • (The clause is part of a sentence.)
  • Michelle laughed because the dog barked at the mirror.
      • (Two clauses are in one sentence. Mary laughed = clause1; the dog barked = clause2)

Clauses can be further classified as independent and dependent clauses. To understand these concepts more, read on below.

Independent Clauses

An independent clause is a group of words that contains both a subject and a verb and already expresses a complete thought. This means that it can already stand on its own.

  • Jess finalized the plan for the trip.
  • Mary cleaned the room before making breakfast.
  • Joseph was impressed with the proposal.

In addition, an independent clause may be connected to another independent clause in various ways.

1.) We can connect two independent clauses using a semi-colon.

  • Jess finalized the plan for the trip; he sent the itinerary via e-mail.
  • Mary cleaned the room before making breakfast; Martha rushes for breakfast without cleaning up.
  • Joseph was impressed with the proposal; he accepted it with no questions.

2.) Coordinating conjunctions can connect independent clauses.

It is easy to remember coordinating conjunctions by their acronym FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). Furthermore, we should use a comma before a coordinating conjunction. This is to avoid run-on sentences.

  • Jess finalized the plan for the trip, and he sent the itinerary via e-mail.
  • Mary cleaned the room before making breakfast, but Martha rushes for breakfast without cleaning up.
  • Joseph was impressed with the proposal, so he accepted it with no questions.

3.) We can also use conjunctive adverbs to combine two independent clauses.

Some commonly used conjunctive adverbs are moreover, however, consequently, finally, etc. Remember that when using conjunctive adverbs, we also need to follow the appropriate punctuation. Use a semi-colon after the first independent clause, then the conjunctive adverb, followed by a comma, and finally the second independent clause.

  • Jess finalized the plan for the trip; moreover, he sent the itinerary via e-mail.
  • Mary cleaned the room before making breakfast; however, Martha rushes for breakfast without cleaning up.
  • Joseph was impressed with the proposal; consequently, he accepted it with no questions.

Dependent Clauses

We already know that a clause, both independent and dependent clauses, has a subject and verb. To be more specific, a dependent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb but does not have a complete thought. In contrast to an independent clause, a dependent clause cannot stand alone. Moreover, it is headed by a dependent marker word which we also call subordinating conjunction.

  • Because her dog Sid took a dive into the icy water.
  • Though citizens are hesitant about getting the vaccine.

In the given examples, “because” and “though” are the subordinating conjunctions. Both sentences are incomplete. Thus, we have to attach them to independent clauses. We call this subordination.

  • Because her dog Sid took a dive into the icy water, the woman rescued the dog immediately.
      • Dependent clause = Because her dog Sid took a dive into the icy water
      • Independent clause = the woman rescued the dog immediately
  • The government still thinks getting the vaccine is a good decision though the citizens are hesitant about it.
      • Dependent clause = though the citizens are hesitant about it
      • Independent clause = The government still thinks getting the vaccine is a good decision

When subordinating dependent clauses, proper punctuation is also important. In the first given sentence, the dependent clause comes at the beginning. This is followed by a comma, then the independent clause. In the second sentence, the independent clause comes first, and the dependent clause follows it. We do not need to put any punctuation such as a comma.

Quick Grammar Check

In each given sentence below, identify which ones are the independent and dependent clauses.

  1. While they were having dinner, the children were playing outside.
  2. Lucy couldn’t read the letters clearly, so she took out her glasses.
  3. The actors got tired after the shoot since they shot their scenes for 12 hours.
  4. Jason accidentally deleted some files; nevertheless, he was able to recover the most important ones.
  5. I will cook some food as soon as we arrive.

Now it’s time to check your answers! Let’s see how well you know the independent and dependent clauses.

  1. While they were having dinner, the children were playing outside.
      • Independent Clause = the children were playing outside
      • Dependent Clause = While they were having dinner (While is a subordinating conjunction.)
  2. Lucy couldn’t read the letters clearly, so she took out her glasses.
      • Independent Clause1 = Lucy couldn’t read the letters clearly
      • Independent Clause2 = (so) she took out her glasses (So is a coordinating conjunction.)
  3. The actors got tired after the shoot since they shot their scenes for 12 hours.
      • Independent Clause = The actors got tired after the shoot
      • Dependent Clause = since they shot their scenes for 12 hours (Since is a subordinating conjunction.)
  4. Jason accidentally deleted some files; nevertheless, he was able to recover the most important ones.
      • Independent Clause1 = Jason accidentally deleted some files
      • Independent Clause2 = (nevertheless) he was able to recover the most important ones (Nevertheless is a conjunctive adverb.)
  5. I will cook some food as soon as we arrive.
      • Independent Clause = I will cook some food
      • Dependent Clause = as soon as we arrive (As soon as is a subordinating conjunction.)
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