Class tomorrow! Independent and Dependent Clauses

One thing that I love about Stitched Smile Publications is how much we’re already setting ourselves apart. We offer Stitched Smile University: writing, editing, and publishing classes provided exclusively to authors and staff. I am excited to be teaching my first grammar class on Sunday the 10th on independent and dependent clauses! Here is a peek at what will be covered.


Most sentences are comprised of two parts: independent and dependent clauses. A clause must have a subject and a verb but does not necessarily have to be a complete thought. If it is missing a subject or a verb, it is just a phrase.

Independent clauses are the easy part; they can stand alone as a sentence.

John ate ribs.

Dependent clauses have a subject and a verb but don’t form a complete thought.

Until he was interrupted…

They depend on independent clauses to help them form a complete sentence. They often contain dependent markers, usually subordinating conjunctions, such as “since,” “unless,” “until,” “if,” “because,” “even though,” or “wherever.”

John still stood since the shot missed him.

Even though “the shot missed him” can stand alone, the addition of “since” makes the second clause dependent, and without that word, the sentence doesn’t make sense.

Connecting a dependent clause to an independent clause or vice versa is simple; use a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, so, nor, for, yet) or an independent marker, such as “also,” “however,” “therefore,” or “furthermore.”

He turned toward the noise and dropped the rib.

Be careful with independent markers; if you use one to connect two independent clauses, you need a semicolon before the independent marker. Likewise, with coordinating conjunctions, you need a comma before the conjunction when joining two independent clauses.

Fresh meat had appeared; furthermore, it seemed to be frozen in fear.

Sometimes, you can connect a dependent clause with a comma. This is most commonly done with introductory clauses, a type of dependent clause.

When he was finished, John licked his lips.

Another type of dependent clause is a relative clause, which is an adjective clause that begins with a relative adverb (when, where, why) or relative pronoun (that, which, who, whom), has a verb, and functions as an adjective. Relative clauses function relative to the main subject of the sentence.

John was the last one that we saw moving.

This sentence uses a relative pronoun, “that,” to refer to what John is: a zombie. If he was a human, I would have written “who.” The verb is “saw.” The main subject of this sentence, John, determines the meaning of the relative clause. The whole relative clause is “that we saw moving.” It describes John from the perspective of “we” and further clarifies that there were more people like John but that none of them are moving anymore.

Independent and dependent clauses can be joined to form complex, compound, and even more complicated sentences. The possibilities are endless.

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