Combining Dependent & Independent Clauses

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  • 0:01 What Is a Clause?
  • 2:04 Comma
  • 3:28 Comma and Conjunction
  • 4:20 Semicolon
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Social Studies, and Science for seven years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Clauses are a great mystery to many people when dealing with our written language. Watch this video lesson to discover clauses and also to learn how to combine clauses correctly.

What Is a Clause?

How words fit together is extremely important in written language. One concept you need to understand in order to communicate effectively is a clause. A clause is a group of words that have a subject and a predicate. Remember, the subject is the main person or object doing the action, and the predicate includes the action, or verb, and the rest of the sentence.

Think of a clause as 1-step below a sentence. Many clauses can have just a verb in the predicate, and some clauses cannot stand by themselves. In this way, a sentence can consist of one or more clauses. This is why clauses are different from whole sentences.

In this lesson, we will look at two types of clauses and how to combine them. The first type of clause is called an independent clause. This clause can stand-alone. It has all the components of a complete sentence, which means it has a subject and a verb in the predicate. Thus, if an independent clause is separate from other sentences, it will be a logical simple sentence.

Look at this example: 'I swam.' This is the simplest form of a sentence and is also an independent clause. It has a subject, ('I' is the person doing the action), and a predicate (the action, 'swam', is the verb). The predicate consists only of the verb, which is why this is the simplest form of a sentence. Logically, though, it makes sense and is a grammatically correct sentence.

The second type of clause is a dependent clause. Dependent clauses cannot stand by themselves. They depend on another clause to make it a complete sentence. Dependent clauses do have a subject and a predicate; however, dependent clauses are structured in such a way that they cannot stand-alone. For example, 'Because I didn't do my homework.' This clause is dependent. It does not make sense on its own. If someone said this to you, you'd immediately ask, 'What happened?'

Now that you understand the difference between independent and dependent clauses, let's look at how to combine them to make full sentences. Three ways to combine clauses include using a comma, a comma plus a conjunction, and a semicolon.

Comma

A comma is a very useful punctuation mark. In fact, a comma has so many uses; many people just throw in a comma anywhere they want. In reality, commas are used to show natural pauses or extend ideas. In regards to clauses, a comma can join a dependent clause with an independent one. Look again at the dependent clause we discussed earlier: 'Because I didn't do my homework'. In order to make a full sentence, you must add a comma and an independent clause: 'Because I didn't do my homework, I wasn't prepared for the class discussion.'

Notice that 'I wasn't prepared for the class discussion.' is a complete thought and an independent clause. Here, the comma attached the dependent clause to an independent one. Look at two more examples:

'While Tim was studying, his sister was watching TV.'

'If I didn't stay up late last night, I wouldn't have fallen asleep in class.'

In each of these examples, a comma was used after the dependent clause to combine with an independent clause. One last thing to note is that if the dependent clause comes after the independent one, then no punctuation is necessary at all. For example, 'I wasn't prepared for the class discussion because I didn't do my homework.' A comma is only used when the dependent clause comes before the independent clause.

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