Independent and Dependent Clause

While learning English, you will come across many grammatical techniques and rules. One of them is clauses. They are of mainly two types, i.e. independent clause and a dependent clause. You have to use them to make a complete sentence. It can be done with one or both. You will learn more about this in the next paragraphs.

What is a clause?

Basically, a clause is a group of words. It can be a partial or a complete sentence that contains a subject and a verb along with other words. So It can be either independent or dependent. If it’s independent, it can be called the main clause, in the same way, if it’s dependent, it can be called a subordinate clause.

Independent clause vs dependent clause

The main clause can provide a complete meaning or a thought. But a subordinate clause can’t provide the same alone. Both use the group of words, but a subordinate clause needs to be attached with the main clause. Recognizing the type of a clause helps you know if a sentence is a fragment or not, and how can you use commas and semicolons in it.

In order to write proper sentences with complete meaning, you have to use either the independent one or both dependent and independent attached. This is because even if a sentence contains a subject and a verb, it can not always be complete on its own.

See some of the examples of clauses below:

Below is an example of a single clause in a single sentence.

  • David caught the ball

This is a simple example of a single clause.

Below is an example of a single sentence with two clauses.

  • David caught the ball, but his team still lost the match.

Note that the first example can be said a complete sentence, but we can make it more meaningful by using two clauses. When a single clause can’t present a complete thought, you have to use two clauses. For example, if you have a question if the ball caught by David helped in winning the match, using two clauses will be helpful.

What is an independent clause?

An independent or main clause contains both subject and verb and makes a complete sentence. It can also be a part of a sentence made of multiple clauses. The main clause provides a complete thought in itself.

When a sentence contains two main clauses, a coordinating conjunction is used to connect them. The coordinating conjunctions are but, and, yet, so, or, nor, for. When a conjunction is used, you have to use a comma before it.

Example: We played well as a team, and we won the match.

Note the conjunction “and” and the comma used before it. It joins two independent clauses and makes a single complete sentence.

What is a dependent clause?

This clause is also called a subordinate clause. It contains both a subject and a verb, but can’t make a complete sentence. To make a meaningful sentence, a subordinate clause has to be dependent on the main clause.

A subordinate clause can be identified by the meaning of the sentence when you read it. It will not be able to convey a complete meaning and you will need additional information to understand the thought. So this type of sentence will be completed by an independent or a main clause along with a conjunction.

Example: Kelly was not able to walk.

What do you think when you read the above sentence? You would most probably have a question “Why?” and would expect for an additional information. So the above sentence can be considered a subordinate clause and needs to be attached to the main clause. They will be connected by a subordinate conjunction. See the example below.

Example: Key was not able to walk because she had a fever and weakness.

Note the clauses joined by a subordinating conjunction “because” and makes a complete sentence which conveys a cause and its effect.

What is a conjunction?

You may be having a question why we have used conjunctions and what they mean? If you see the examples provided above, you will get that two different sentences are forming a single one. To make this possible, we have to use a word that joins them meaningfully. So we have to use a conjunction.

Conjunction definition: The conjunction is used as a joiner and joins different types of clauses, words or phrases in a sentence. It joins the words or group of words to establish a relationship and connect the meaning or thought conveyed by them.

Conjunctions are very important in making your speech or writing easy to understand when there are long sentences. It improves the meaning by connecting two different parts of your text. You can construct long sentences without making them confusing.

Understanding the use of conjunctions and punctuations may seem complex, but they are worthy of use. Learn to use them carefully and make sure you follow the grammatical rules while using them.

There are three types of conjunctions as described below.

1. Coordinating conjunction

This is the most common and widely used conjunction type as it mainly joins the group of words or clauses which are equal in meaning. They are used between the clauses and not at the beginning or end and act as joining elements in a sentence.

Example: We played well as a team and we won the game.

In the example above, you can see that there are two different clauses with different meanings. But they are joined by a coordinating conjunction “and” that joins them together and connects the meaning of the sentence, i.e. the cause and effect.

Example: I like both cars and bikes.

In this example, you can see that a conjunction “and” is not joining two clauses, but the words, i.e. “cars” and “bikes”.

Example: Watching Hollywood movies and playing games on mobile are his favorite time pass activities.

This example shows two phrases i.e. “Watching Hollywood movies” and “playing games on mobile”, which are joined by a conjunction “and”.

In short, you can use coordinating conjunctions to join two or more words, phrases or clauses. Note that when you are joining only two words, phrase or dependent clauses, you don’t need to use a comma. But if you are joining two or more of them, you should use commas after each of them.

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Examples:

  • You can read everything about dogs, cats, and birds in this pet animals book.
  • The rates were found in the bedroom, the store-room, and in the

While joining two independent clauses, you should use a comma just before the conjunction.

Example: I like driving cars, but I enjoy riding bikes.

See the coordinating conjunction list showing all of them.

  • for
  • and
  • nor
  • but
  • or
  • yet
  • so

2. Subordinating conjunction

When you want to link two clauses in which one is a dependent and the other is independent, you will need to use a subordinating conjunction. It introduces a subordinate clause and also establishes a relationship between the main and subordinate clauses in the sentence.

Examples:

  • My computer got infected as soon as I downloaded the file from an unknown link.
  • Because that poor man was very hungry, I bought him a pizza.

Note how the subordinating conjunctions in the above examples are linking the dependent with an independent clause. You can use the conjunction at the beginning or between the sentence depending on which conjunction you are using. Also, remember to use a comma to separate the clauses.

To know all the subordinating conjunctions, see below list.

  • while
  • as soon as
  • although
  • before
  • even if
  • because
  • no matter how
  • whether
  • wherever
  • when
  • until
  • after
  • as if
  • how
  • if
  • provided
  • in that
  • once
  • supposing
  • while
  • unless
  • in case
  • as far as
  • now that
  • as
  • so that
  • though
  • since

You may think about although vs though as you can see both of them on the list. Though “although” is more formal than “though”, you can see both of them used equally in different writings. So you can use any of them interchangeably.

3. Correlative conjunction

A correlative conjunction is used to join two equal elements in a sentence. This type of conjunction uses two conjunctions as a pair. You can see all of them in the conjunction list below.

  • either… or
  • neither… nor
  • not only… but also
  • both… and
  • whether… or
  • so… as

Examples:

  • We enjoy both watching movies and playing games during the vacation.
  • To be able to handle too much work and still stay healthy physically and mentally, you can either do exercise or do yoga and meditation.

Conjunctive adverbs

Some words are used as conjunctions in the sentences even if they are not actually a conjunction. They are called conjunctive adverbs.

Some examples of such adverbs are:

  • however
  • nevertheless
  • therefore
  • furthermore
  • thus
  • likewise
  • otherwise
  • meanwhile

You have to use a comma to separate the two clauses. A comma is used either before or after the adverb. But when an adverb is used in the beginning, you have to use a comma at the end of the first clause.

A good example of a conjunctive adverb can be as below. It is using two different thoughts to connected by nevertheless. We can also define nevertheless as an independent marker which will discuss later section in this article.

  • The world is going through an economic crisis, nevertheless, some Asian countries are developing at a good rate.

More examples:

  • Though there are many anti-virus software to keep your computer and online transactions safe, you should be careful while making online transactions and downloads.
  • You have to keep your passwords and pins secret and should not write anywhere, otherwise, your online accounts will not be safe.
  • Experts recommend the usage of paid security software if you are using the internet too much, and therefore you should install a paid version of an anti-virus and internet security software.

Dependent markers

Dependent markers are the words which are used to change an independent or main clause to a dependent or a subordinate clause. To do this, a marker word is used at the beginning of the clause in the sentence.

The words like;

  • when
  • after
  • as if
  • as
  • though
  • although
  • because
  • even
  • even if
  • before
  • in order to
  • unless
  • until
  • even though
  • whenever
  • since
  • whatever
  • while
  • whether

are used as dependent markers in sentences where suitable.

Examples:

  • WhenSmith studied the project document, he found many specifications which require more research, discussions, and clarifications.
  • Thoughthey played very well as a team, they lost the game

Independent markers

These are the words which connect two independent markers but are always used at the beginning of the sentence which can stand alone. So when such a word is used to join two clauses, the first clause should end with a semicolon and then comes the independent marker followed by a comma.

The common independent markers you can use are:

  • however
  • moreover
  • furthermore
  • also
  • consequently
  • nevertheless
  • therefore

Examples:

  • Too much use of sugar is harmful to the health; moreover, it’s the reason for many diseases.
  • You need drastic changes in your routine to improve your health; however,you should do the changes in small steps.

There are two independent sentences joined with an independent marker “moreover”. Note the semicolon at the end of the first independent sentence and marker word followed by a comma at the beginning of the second independent sentence.

Things to keep in mind

While making a sentence or a group of words that contain two clauses, you have to take care of the placement of commas. But when it’s used incorrectly, you can correct it using a conjunction or by changing it to a semicolon or to a period.

You can join two clauses by using a conjunction. You can make a clause dependent by using a dependent marker or a semicolon before the independent marker when there are two stand-alone sentences.

When you write two independent sentences without using any punctuation, it’s called a run-on sentence. You should use a comma or semicolon or a period.

Sometimes, a sentence is not a complete thought when left as if it’s a complete sentence. If so, you can correct it by adding another sentence joined by a conjunction or by removing a dependent marker if it has.

We hope this article will be helpful to you in understanding the clauses and their use.