ACT English Practice: Clauses

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  • 0:01 Clauses on the ACT
  • 1:41 Question 1
  • 2:50 Question 2
  • 4:55 Question 3
  • 6:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Clauses are like the building blocks of a sentence. In this lesson, you'll learn how to manage the different types of clauses with some guided practice problems.

Clauses on the ACT

To ace the ACT English test, you'll need to know how to work with clauses, including how to patch them together into sentences. In this lesson, we'll be practicing just that, but first off, here's a quick grammar review:

Independent clauses are complete thoughts. An independent clause could be a sentence on its own. For example, 'I bought sunscreen' is an independent clause.

Dependent clauses are word groups that do not form complete thoughts. For example, 'Because I was going to the beach' is a dependent clause. It couldn't be a sentence on its own, but it still has a subject and a verb, and it's recognizable as a logical group.

A very simple sentence could be just an independent clause. Alternately, it might be two or more clauses of different types joined together.

To connect an independent clause to another independent clause, use a semicolon or colon. You'd use a semicolon if you're simply connecting two ideas and a colon specifically if the second idea explains or elaborates on the first one. Alternately, you can use a comma and a conjunction. Or simply break up the two clauses into two different sentences and separate them with a period.

To connect a dependent clause to an independent clause, use a comma. Never use a comma to connect two independent clauses. This is called a comma splice. Every time you comma splice, a puppy cries.

In this lesson, you'll practice manipulating dependent and independent clauses and spotting when they're being used incorrectly. Ready to start?

Question 1

Emily was afraid; she was alone in a strange neighborhood with no map, and dark was falling fast.

Which of the following replacements would NOT be acceptable?

(A) (as it is now)
(B) afraid because she was
(C) afraid: she was
(D) afraid, she was

Here, the question is asking you about the punctuation that connects 'Emily was afraid' and 'she was aloneā€¦'.

First, let's figure out what we're dealing with. One easy way to keep everything straight is to just draw a quick chart of what kind of clauses you're working with. Make one column for the words on the page and a second column where you can write down whether this is a dependent or an independent clause.

Let's start with 'Emily was afraid.' This could be a complete sentence, so it's an independent clause.

How about the second clause, starting with 'she was alone'? Could that be a complete sentence, too? It could, so it's independent as well.

We know we're dealing with two independent clauses. So which mark of punctuation is not OK?

If you picked (D), you got it right. No comma splices!

Question 2

Want to try another one? Which of the following would be the best replacement for the underlined portion of this sentence?

Because the forecast was for snow and storms, we took all our cold-weather gear on the camping trip.

(A) (as it is now)
(B) The forecast was for snow and storms,
(C) Because the forecast was for snow and storms;
(D) When the forecast called for snow and storms:

Let's fill in the same chart that you used for the last question:

The first one is a dependent clause: there isn't a complete sentence all on its own. Specifically, 'because' marks it out as a dependent clause. Seeing 'because' clues you in that the thought here is not complete because you're still waiting on the explanation of what happened because of the forecast. Grammatically, the word 'because' is called a subordinating conjunction.

The second is an independent clause: this could be a complete sentence all on its own.

So now we're connecting a dependent to an independent clause, which is supposed to take a comma. And lo and behold: there's a comma in the original! So the original looks correct, but let's take a look down the other answer choices just to make sure.

(B) The forecast was for snow and storms,

This answer choice changes the first clause into an independent clause, but keeps the comma. So now we have the dreaded comma splice! Cross it out.

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