Independent & Dependent Clauses

Independent & Dependent Clauses

No! Not those kinds of clauses!

I am often mentioning independent and dependent clauses when I discuss writing, especially when talking about sentence structure.

What is the difference between an independent clause and a dependent clause?

One way to think of these clauses is to relate the words independent and dependent to something more familiar.

An independent person is someone who can manage his or her own affairs without much assistance. (Hey, we all need help once in a while.)

A dependent person is someone, often a child, who is not able to manage his or her own affairs alone.

If you have filled out taxes or a will, you will have run across the term dependents – people who depend upon your support.

Clauses are the same.

turkey An independent clause can stand on its own.  It is, in fact, a complete sentence.

          George loves fish.

This clause has a subject and a predicate and completes a thought.  This is an important point which I will return to momentarily.

          Although George loves fish.

This clause is not a complete sentence.  It is a dependent clause.  It needs something else to complete it. The subordinating word “although” turns an independent clause (or complete sentence) into a dependent clause (not a complete sentence). Sometimes students are confused because this group of words does have a subject, “George,” and it has a predicate, “loves fish.”  Remember the other major rule of a sentence: A sentence must complete a thought.

          Although George loves fish, he does not like all seafood.

Now we have a complete sentence again.  This is a complex sentence because it contains a dependent clause and an independent clause. (In this case the word “complex” does not mean difficult or challenging.  It is simply the name of this kind of sentence.  There are also the simple, compound, and compound-complex kinds of sentences.)

If you would like to know more about the kinds of sentences, phrases, clauses, and more, check out some of my other blogs and videos, or look for the link below to my Basic English Writing course on Udemy.

shoesAsk yourself.

Another way to test your sentences is to read them aloud as if you were talking to someone (or actually read them to someone).  Ask yourself, “Does this sentence make sense by itself?  Is it a complete thought?”

          Whenever Mary buys shoes.

          Sometimes when I go to the mall.

Neither of the above examples is a complete sentence.  They could be if we removed some words, but they are not in their current form.  If I walked up to you and said, “Whenever Mary buys shoes,” you would be waiting for me to finish the thought.  What about Mary and her shoe purchasing? The listener (or reader) needs more unless you simply meant that Mary buys shoes and that’s it. 

          Whenever Mary buys shoes, she can never find the right size.

          Whenever Mary buys shoes, she is happy for weeks.

These examples complete the thought. There are almost unlimited possibilities which is why we need that complete thought.

Whenever you proofread and edit your work, be sure to pay attention to your sentences and ask yourself if they make sense by themselves. 

In the meantime, keep writing, and keep having fun!

basic-english-writin...Try the Basic English Writing course if you would like to learn more about sentences.  You can complete the lessons on your own time.

Click on the link below to join!

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