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Independent Clauses and Dependent Clauses in English Grammar

Independent Clauses and Dependent Clauses in English Grammar

Clauses are defined as grammatical structures that contain a subject and a predicate and that are the smallest grammatical unit that can express a complete proposition. One primary division in the analysis of clauses is the distinction between independent clauses and dependent clauses.

Independent Clauses

Independent clauses in English grammar are grammatical structures that consist of a subject and a predicate and that can function independently as complete sentences. Independent clause is a grammatical form. All independent clauses in the English language are finite, meaning that the clauses contain conjugated verbs functioning as predicates. Verb clauses are the only independent clauses in English grammar. Verb clauses can function as declarations, exclamations, questions, and imperatives in the English language. For example, the following italicized clauses are examples of independent clauses:

  • I am Pi. (declaration)
  • My phone broke falling from my pocket onto the concrete. (declaration)
  • She is! (exclamation)
  • Her house was burglarized last weekend! (exclamation)
  • Whose dog was barking? (question)
  • For whom does the bell toll? (question)
  • Stop! (imperative)
  • Wipe your paws at the door. (imperative)

Some grammars use the terms main clause, matrix clause, and superordinate clause for independent clauses. Independent clauses contrast with dependent clauses.

Dependent Clauses

Dependent clauses in English grammar are grammatical structures that consist of a subordinating conjunction followed by a subject and a predicate and that cannot function independently as complete sentences. Dependent clause is a grammatical form. Dependent clauses are either finite, meaning that the clause contains a conjugated verb functioning as a predicate, or nonfinite, meaning that the clause lacks a conjugated verb. Noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverb clauses are the three dependent clauses in English grammar. Noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverb clauses perform multiple functions in the English language. For example, the following italicized clauses are examples of dependent clauses:

  • The museum will send a bill to whoever damaged this statue. (noun clause)
  • Whether you will pay for the party is not even a question. (noun clause)
  • The gentleman who works at the nursery was my neighbor. (adjective clause)
  • The deli where he forgot his wallet is known for its unique salads. (adjective clause)
  • After Elizabeth gave the baby a bath, she cooked fried chicken. (adverb clause)
  • Some children cannot usually eat cookies because they are allergic to gluten. (adverb clause)

Some grammars use the terms subordinate clause for dependent clauses. Dependent clauses contrast with independent clauses.

Consisting of a subject and a predicate, a clause is the smallest grammatical unit that can express a complete proposition. One primary division of clauses is the distinction between independent clauses and dependent clauses.

See also Finite Clauses and Non-finite Clauses in English Grammar.

Summary

Clauses are grammatical structures that contain a subject and a predicate and the smallest grammatical unit that can express a complete proposition.

Independent clauses can function independently as complete sentences. Dependent clauses cannot function independently as complete sentences.

Independent clause and dependent clause are grammatical forms.

Independent clauses are finite, meaning that the clauses contain conjugated verbs functioning as predicates. Dependent clauses are either finite, meaning that the clause contains a conjugated verb functioning as a predicate, or nonfinite, meaning that the clause lacks a conjugated verb.

Verb clauses are the only independent clauses in English grammar. Noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverb clauses are the three dependent clauses in English grammar.

Some grammars use the terms main clause, matrix clause, and superordinate clause for independent clauses. Some grammars use the terms subordinate clause for dependent clauses.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman & Nina Hyams. 2006. An introduction to language. Boston: Wadsworth Publishing.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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