what is an independent clause? If you’re new to grammar, you might be wondering what an independent clause is. An independent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb, and it can stand alone as a complete sentence.
For example, “I am writing a paragraph about independent clauses.” That’s an independent clause right there! Independent clauses are contrasted with dependent clauses, which cannot stand alone as complete sentences. So, if you want to make sure your sentence is complete and grammatically correct, make sure it contains an independent clause.
What is an Independent Clause
A clause is a group of related words. An independent clause has a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought—it can stand alone as a sentence. An independent clause is also known as a main clause. A dependent clause also has a subject and verb but does not express a complete thought—it cannot stand alone as a sentence.
A dependent clause is also known as a subordinate clause.
There are three types of subordinate clauses: adjective, adverb, and noun.
- Adjective clauses modify adjectives,
- Adverb clauses modify verbs, and
- Noun clauses modify nouns.
Relative pronouns (who, whom, that, which, whose, where, when, why) are used to introduce adjective clauses.
Relative adverbs (where, when, why) are used to introduce adverb clauses. And subordinate conjunctions (after, although, as, because, before, if, since, though, unless, until) are used to introduce noun clauses.
What are the Characteristics of an Independent Clause
Every sentence is made up of one or more clauses. An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone as a complete sentence; it doesn’t need any other clauses to support it. A dependent clause, on the other hand, cannot stand alone—it must be attached to an independent clause in order to make sense. There are three main characteristics of an independent clause:
- It has a subject and a verb. Every clause needs a subject (the thing doing the action) and a verb (the action itself), and an independent clause is no exception. For example, in the sentence “The dog barks,” “the dog” is the subject and “barks” is the verb.
- It expresses a complete thought. An independent clause must be able to express a complete thought—that is, it must be able to stand alone as a sentence. This means that it must make sense on its own, without any other clauses attached to it. For example, the sentence “The dog barks” is a complete thought, but the sentence “The dog who lives next door” is not because it doesn’t make sense on its own (who lives next door?).
- It can be used as a sentence on its own. This last point follows directly from the second: because an independent clause can express a complete thought, it can also be used as a sentence on its own. In other words, an independent clause is a perfectly good sentence; you don’t need anything else to go with it. Dependent clauses, on the other hand, cannot be used as sentences on their own—they must be attached to an independent clause in order to form a complete sentence.
How to Identify an Independent Clause
Here’s how you can tell if a sentence has an independent clause in it:
If you can remove everything before the comma and the sentence still makes sense, then you’ve got an independent clause.
For example, “Joe ran to the store” is an independent clause. You could remove everything before the comma and the sentence would still make sense: “Ran to the store.”
Now try it with a dependent clause: “When Joe ran to the store.” If you remove everything before the comma, the sentence doesn’t make sense anymore.
See how that works? Therefore, we can conclude that “Joe ran to the store” has an independent clause, but “When Joe ran to the store” does not.
How to use Independent Clauses in your Writing
When you’re writing, it’s important to use independent clauses to create balance in your sentences. You don’t want all your sentences to be short and choppy, or all your sentences to be long and complicated. By using both long and short sentences, you create a more interesting and well-rounded text.
Independent clauses can be used anywhere in a sentence. They can be the main clause (the main part of the sentence), or they can be a subordinate clause (a clause that modifies another part of the sentence). In most cases, it’s best to use a comma after an independent clause. However, there are some cases where you don’t need a comma:
- If the independent clause is at the beginning of the sentence, you don’t need a comma.
- If the independent clause is at the end of the sentence, you don’t need a comma unless there’s a dependent clause immediately following it.
- If two independent clauses are joined together with a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, nor, or, so), you don’t need a comma between them.
Here are some examples:
- “I went running this morning” is an independent clause at the beginning of the sentence.
- “She was extremely tired but she went running anyway” has two independent clauses joined together with a coordinating conjunction (but). The second clause doesn’t have a subject (she) or a verb (was), but that’s okay because it’s being modified by the first clause.
- “The dog barks incessantly” is an independent clause at the end of the sentence.
- “She decided to take a break, although she was tired” has an independent clause (she decided to take a break) and a dependent clause (although she was tired). The dependent clause must be preceded by a comma.
And, complex sentences with multiple clauses can be tricky. To ensure balance in your writing, you should aim for at least one short sentence and one long sentence per paragraph. This way, your readers will get the information they need without getting bogged down in too much detail.
When to Use a Subordinating Conjunction in a Sentence
A subordinating conjunction is a word that joins an independent clause and a dependent clause. The most common subordinating conjunction in English is when. When you use when in a sentence, it typically indicates that the action in the dependent clause will happen after the action in the independent clause.
For example, “I’ll call you when I get home.” In this sentence, the speaker will call the person after they get home. Other common subordinating conjunctions include while, since, until, as soon as, before, and after. Subordinating conjunctions are a great way to add detail and depth to your writing.
When used correctly, they can make your sentences more interesting and complex. However, be careful not to overuse them. Too many subordinating conjunctions in a sentence can make it difficult to follow the main idea.
When to use a Comma after an Independent Clause
The comma is one of the most versatile and useful punctuation marks. It can be used to indicate a pause, to separate items in a list, or to set off introductory phrases. However, one of the most common uses for the comma is to signal the end of an independent clause. An independent clause is a complete sentence that contains a subject and a verb and can stand on its own.
For example, “I am writing a paper.” In this sentence, “I” is the subject and “am writing” is the verb. When two independent clauses are joined together, they are usually separated by a comma. For example, “I am writing a paper, and I need to do some research.” In this sentence, the first clause is “I am writing a paper,” and the second clause is “I need to do some research.”
As you can see, a comma is used after the first clause to signal that there is another clause to follow. There are other ways to join independent clauses, but using a comma is the most common and easiest way to do it.
So next time you’re wondering whether or not to use a comma after an independent clause, just ask yourself if the clause could stand on its own as a complete sentence. If it could, then chances are you need a comma.
How to Create Complex Sentences with Multiple Clauses
To create complex sentences with multiple clauses, start by thinking about what you want to say. Then, break it down into smaller parts. For example, if you want to say “I’m going to the store,” you could break it down into “I’m going” and “to the store.” Once you have your smaller parts, put them back together into a complete sentence.
For example, you could say “I’m going to the store because I need to buy milk.” By breaking down your thoughts and putting them back together into complex sentences, you can communicate more clearly and effectively.
Tips for Improving your Writing Skills with Independent Clauses
Sentences are the building blocks of writing, so it’s important to get them right. An independent clause is a complete sentence; it contains a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought. To make your writing more interesting and engaging, start by adding more independent clauses. Here are three tips:
- Use specific and concrete language. This will make your writing more vivid and accessible.
- Be concise. A shorter sentence is generally more effective than a longer one. So cut out any words that aren’t absolutely necessary.
- Vary your sentence length. A mix of short and long sentences helps to keep readers engaged and makes your writing more dynamic.
Remember, though, that there’s no hard-and-fast rule about sentence length; ultimately, you should let your ear be your guide. Pay attention to the rhythm of your sentences and make sure they sound natural and fluid. With a little practice, you’ll be writing with independent clauses like a pro in no time!
The Difference Between a Dependent Clause and an Independent Clause
A dependent clause is a clause that cannot stand alone as a sentence; it is grammatically incomplete. A dependent clause must be combined with an independent clause to create a complete sentence. An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone as a sentence; it is grammatically complete.
A dependent clause may be introduced by a subordinate conjunction or a relative pronoun. Some examples of subordinate conjunctions include: after, although, as, because, before, if, since, when, and while. Relative pronouns include: that, which, who, and whom.
Examples of Dependent Clauses
A dependent clause is a clause that can’t stand alone as a sentence—it is not a complete thought. A dependent clause is often introduced by a subordinating conjunction (after, although, as, because, before, if, since, than, that, though, until, when, where, whether). When two independent clauses (complete thoughts) are joined by only a comma, this is called a comma splice and is incorrect.
Joining independent clauses with commas and no conjunction is also called a run-on sentence. To fix these errors, we can add a coordinating conjunction after the comma (for, and, nor, but/yet), insert a semicolon before the comma, or turn the dependent clause into an introductory phrase by placing a comma after the dependent clause.
How to Connect Two Independent Clauses with a Coordinating Conjunction
The fastest way to connect two independent clauses is with a coordinating conjunction: and, but, yet, so, or, nor. For example, “I’m studying for the test” and “I can’t go to the party” becomes “I’m studying for the test, so I can’t go to the party.” However, be careful not to create a run-on sentence by stringing too many independent clauses together with coordinating conjunctions. If you need help remembering the coordinating conjunctions, just think of the acronym FANBOYS.
When to use a Semicolon Instead of a Coordinating Conjunction
Most of the time, when you see a semicolon, it’s being used incorrectly. A semicolon is not a super-comma that you can use to join any two related phrases. It’s a specific mark with a specific meaning, and if you use it incorrectly, your readers will get confused. So when should you use a semicolon?
The answer is simple: when you need to join two independent clauses. An independent clause is a complete sentence; it has a subject and a verb and express a complete thought. Most of the time, you can join two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).
However, there are times when using a coordinating conjunction would create ambiguity or make your writing sound choppy. In those cases, you can use a semicolon to signal that the two clauses are closely related. Just remember: when in doubt, err on the side of using a coordinating conjunction. Your readers will thank you for it.
The Importance of Punctuation when Using an Independent Clause
No one would argue with the statement that commas are important. They can completely change the meaning of a sentence, after all. For example, “Let’s eat Grandma” versus “Let’s eat, Grandma.” See how the comma changed things? In the first sentence, we’re suggesting that eating Grandma is an option (albeit a disturbing one). In the second sentence, we’re suggesting that we have a meal with our beloved grandmother.
Two very different interpretations, all because of a single piece of punctuation. This goes to show that independent clauses must be used very carefully. Otherwise, you risk changing the meaning of your words entirely. So, the next time you reach for that comma, pause and ask yourself whether it’s really necessary. In many cases, it might not be.
What Kinds of Errors can you make when Writing an Independent Clause
The most common mistake people make when writing an independent clause is to put a comma between the subject and verb. This error is called a comma splice. A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are joined together with a comma instead of a semicolon or conjunction. This error makes your writing sound choppy and can be frustrating for readers.
Another common error is to use a subordinate conjunction when you should use a coordinating conjunction. A subordinate conjunction introduces a dependent clause, which cannot stand alone as a sentence. Coordinating conjunctions, on the other hand, join two independent clauses. Using the wrong conjunction can change the meaning of your sentence and make it confusing for readers.
And, another error people sometimes make is to use an infinitive instead of an gerund. An infinitive is the basic form of a verb, such as “to read,” while a gerund is the present participle form of the verb, such as “reading.” Gerunds are always used after prepositions, so using an infinitive in this context can create confusion.
These are just some of the errors you might make when writing an independent clause. Paying attention to these details will help you avoid making mistakes and make your writing more effective.
Independent clauses are an important part of effective writing. Knowing when to use them and how to use them correctly can help you create clear, concise sentences that get your point across without confusion. As we have seen, there are a few common errors that people make when using independent clauses. Paying attention to the details and using the appropriate punctuation will help you get your message across correctly and clearly. Now go out there and start writing better!
Q: What is an independent clause?
A: An independent clause is a group of words that contains both a subject and a verb, expresses a complete thought, and can stand alone as its own sentence. It does not need any additional information to make sense.
Q: What are the characteristics of independent clauses?
A: Independent clauses have three main characteristics. First, they contain both a subject and a verb that express an idea or opinion. Secondly, they make complete thoughts that can be understood without any other information. Finally, they can stand alone as their own sentences—they don’t need to be attached to another clause in order to make sense.
Q: How do I identify an independent clause?
A: The best way to identify an independent clause is to look for the subject and verb. If you can find both of those, then it’s likely an independent clause. Additionally, you can try reading the sentence out loud or having someone else read it—if it makes complete sense on its own, then it’s probably an independent clause.
Q: When should I use a subordinating conjunction after an independent clause?
A: You should use a subordinating conjunction after an independent clause when you want to join two clauses together in order create a complex sentence. The subordinate clause will provide additional information that modifies the first independent clause. For example, “I went to the store because I needed milk.” Here, “because” is the subordinating conjunction that connects the two clauses.
Q: When should I use a comma after an independent clause?
A: You should use a comma after an independent clause when you want to join two clauses together in order to create balance and emphasis in your writing. For example, “I went to the store, but I didn’t buy anything.” Here, the comma emphasizes the contrast between the clauses by creating a pause for effect.
Q: How do I create balance in my writing with multiple clauses?
A: To create balance in your writing with multiple clauses, it’s important to use both long and short sentences. This will help keep your readers engaged by providing variety and flow in your text. Additionally, it’s helpful to use both independent and dependent clauses. This will help create a contrast between the two, making your writing more dynamic and interesting.
Q: Are there any other tips for improving my writing skills?
A: Yes! One of the best ways to improve your writing skills is to practice. Try reading and analyzing sample pieces of writing, or write your own stories and essays. Additionally, it’s helpful to get feedback from an editor or mentor who can provide constructive criticism on your work. Finally, you can try taking a class in creative writing or journalism—these are great ways to hone your craft and become familiar with different techniques and styles that you can use in your own work.