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Independent and dependent clauses
A clause is a group of related words. A clause has both a subject and a predicate. Every complete sentence contains two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about, while the predicate tells something about the subject.
Here are some examples where the predicate is highlighted while the subject is in bold. Judy runs. Judy and her dog run on the beach every morning.
To determine the subject of a sentence, first isolate the verb and then make a question by placing “who?” or “what?” before it — the answer is the subject.
A sentence may have a compound subject — a simple subject consisting of more than one noun or pronoun (bolded) — as in this example: Team pennants, rock posters and family photographs covered the boy’s bedroom walls.
Here is another example:
The students assembled on campus with maps and notebooks.
The verb in the above sentence is assembled. Who or what assembled? The students did. Therefore, The students is the subject of the sentence . The predicate (which always includes the verb) goes on to relate something about the subject: what about the students? They assembled on campus with maps and notebooks.
A clause is different from a phrase; clauses have a subject-verb relationship, phrases do not! For example, “in the morning” or “running down the street” or having grown used to harassment” are all phrases, not clauses.
A predicate has at its center a simple predicate (underlined), which is always the verb or verbs that link up with the subject. In the example below, the simple predicate is “would satisfy” — in other words, the verb of the sentence. A piece of pepperoni pizza would satisfy his hunger.
The example below features a compound predicate underlined), a predicate that includes more than one verb pertaining to the same subject (in this case, “walked” and “admired”). Her uncle and she walked slowly through the Inuit art gallery and admired the powerful sculptures exhibited there.
It may, however, become part of a larger sentence if it is connected to other clauses and phrases by a semicolon or by a coordinating conjunction.
I shall haunt you till your dying day; I shall haunt your friends and relations after that.
I shall haunt you till your dying day, and I shall haunt your friends and relations after that.
If you try to join two independent clauses with a comma, you will have created a comma splice (See the handout on run-on sentences). Use a semicolon or a coordinating conjunction to join two independent clauses.
The coordinating conjunctions that join independent clauses include and, but, or, nor, neither, yet, for, or, and so.
The coordinating conjunction does not belong in either clause, but merely joins them together. Put a comma before the coordinating conjunction
Here are some examples:
He fondled his iPhone, and he checked his email.
Fanny Dooley likes sunbathing, but she loves mooning.
She had lost her castanets, so she used her uncle’s dentures.
The cat had broken their Ming vase, yet it did not seem to care.
Dependent clauses, sometimes called subordinate clauses
Dependent or subordinate clauses are clauses that cannot stand as complete sentences by themselves.
1) Sometimes a clause is subordinate or dependent because it does not express a complete thought.
2) Sometimes an independent clause becomes dependent by adding an extra word (a subordinating conjunction) to it.
because he wanted to buy a new car Although “he wanted to buy a new car” is an independent clause, it becomes a subordinate clause when the subordinating conjunction “because” is added to it.
when I got to class Again, notice that “I got to class” is an independent clause which becomes subordinate
when “when” is added.
although he was very tired “He was very tired” is an independent clause that becomes subordinate when “although” is added.
Following is a list of some of the more common subordinating conjunctions. Putting these at the beginning of any independent clause will make it a subordinate clause:
after although as as if as long as as soon as because before if in order that since so that than though unless until when whenever where wherever while
Following is a list of relative pronouns. Sometimes they are used in independent clauses, and sometimes they are used in subordinate or dependent clauses.
who whom that whose which
Generally speaking, if who, whose, and which are used in independent clauses, the clauses are in the form of questions:
Independent clauses: Who is Mandy Davis? Whose boots are on the table? Which swimming meet did the Wildcats win?
Subordinate or dependent clauses: Miss Kentucky, who is a wildcat, spoke at football practice. The NBA Star whose fans are the most devoted continued to score. The UK basketball team, which is ranked #1 in the nation, won their last game.
That is used in declarative sentences. Example: That is Olsen Field in the background.
That is also used to form dependent clauses. Example: That Rock left the garage. “Rock left the garage” is technically an independent clause because it contains a subject and a verb. Adding that to the clause makes it dependent.
Why do we care about clauses? Being able to identify the different kinds of clauses is helpful because it enables you to identify grammatical and punctuation errors in your writing.
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