A clause is any group of words that contains both a subject and a verb. The subject can be a simple noun, a group of words known as a phrase (see below), or another clause. Clauses can be split into two categories: independent and dependent clauses.
The independent clause can always stand on its own as a complete sentence; it does not rely on other clauses or phrases for its meaning. A sentence may contain more than one independent clause, but each independent clause can always be separated into a separate complete sentence.
Example 1 - Hand me that socket wrench.
Here a single independent clause is used as a complete sentence. The verb in this clause is hand. The subject is the implied pronoun you, which is usually omitted in orders or requests.
Example 2 - Tell my sister that I miss her; tell my brother that it gets much easier.
Here two related independent clauses are joined together with a semicolon to form a compound sentence, which is defined as any sentence that has more than one independent clause.
Example 3 - She is going to be a schoolteacher because she believes education is the most fundamental pillar of the republic.
This sentence is made up of an independent clause and a subordinate (dependent) clause. A sentence with one independent clause and one or more dependent clause is called a complex sentence.
Example 4 - This peach is way beyond ripe, and I refuse to pay for it.
This sentence consists of two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction.
For a definition and complete list of coordinating conjunctions, see Chapter 12, Lesson 1.
Like the independent clause, the dependent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb. However, the dependent clause relies on an independent clause to complete its meaning.
Example 1 - If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.
The first clause is dependent because it begins with “if,” which is classified as a subordinating conjunction. All clauses that begin with subordinating conjunctions are considered dependent. Notice that the dependent clause still contains both a subject and a verb.
Example 2 - Janis spent her vacation in Goa, which is on the west coast of the Indian subcontinent.
Here the dependent clause is being used like one big adjective to modify or describe “Goa.” The dependent clause begins with the relative pronoun “which,” which stands in for “Goa” as the subject of the clause.
Here is a list of common subordinating conjunctions. Remember that any clause beginning with these words is considered dependent and cannot stand on its own as a complete sentence.
|Until||As if||In order that||When|
|As long as||Lest||Whenever||As much as|
Identify the clause(s) in each example sentence. Mark each clause as either an independent clause (IC) or dependent clause (DC).
- There are a thousand little restaurants tucked into the corners, basements, and alleyways of Manhattan, and many of them are worth discovering.
- My uncle was not dull: he was uncommonly clever.
- If you speak the truth, have a foot in the stirrup.
- Take your shoes off before you walk on my new carpet.
- Is Jason really moving to Portland to look for a job after he graduates?