Identifying & Correcting Clause Errors: Strategies & Examples

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  • 0:05 What Are Clauses?
  • 0:53 Punctuating Clauses
  • 3:04 Parallel Clauses
  • 4:32 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.

This lesson explores clause errors. We'll start with a refresher on what clauses even are and the different types of clauses. Then, we'll move on to different types of clause errors and how to correct them.

What Are Clauses?

You might not know what clauses are, but you use them every time you talk. A clause is a group of words including a subject performing the action of a verb. An independent clause is a clause that could stand alone as a sentence. An independent clause expresses a complete thought. A dependent clause is a clause that could not stand alone as a sentence. A dependent clause doesn't express a complete thought. You can change an independent clause into a dependent clause by adding a subordinating conjunction. A subordinating conjunction is a word that implies there's more to the thought than just this one clause. In this lesson, you'll take a look at some common clause errors and how to solve them, including punctuation errors, joining to clauses together, and arranging clauses in parallel structure.

Punctuating Clauses

When you connect two clauses, it's important to use the correct punctuation. To connect two independent, clauses you have two choices. First, you could use a semicolon or a period to directly connect the two clauses. Alternately, you could use a comma with a coordinating conjunction. A coordinating conjunction joins two independent clauses. There are seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, not, but, or, yet, so. You can remember them with the acronym 'fanboys'. To connect an independent to a dependent clause, or two dependent clauses, use a comma. Take a look at some examples of clause punctuation errors:

Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler, she was the daughter of Revolutionary War hero Philip Schuyler.

What's wrong with this? Let's start by identifying both clauses. 'Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler' is a complete thought, so it's an independent clause. 'She was the daughter of Revolutionary War hero Philip Schuyler' is also a complete thought. So, it's also an independent clause. Here we have two independent clauses, but they're joined with a comma. No good. This is called a comma splice. To fix this, we could replace the comma with a semicolon or a period, add a coordinating conjunction to connect the two independent clauses, or change one of the independent clause to a dependent clause. Either is fine.

How about another one:

When Angelica eloped with her husband a year into the Revolutionary War her family was surprised but wished the new couple all the best.

What's wrong with this one? Here we don't have any punctuation where we need it. 'When Angelica eloped with her husband a year into the Revolutionary War' is a dependent clause. This isn't a complete thought because it leaves you waiting to see what happened. 'Her family was surprised but wished the new couple all the best' is a complete thought, so this is an independent clause. Here we're connecting a dependent to an independent clause, so we'd want a comma to separate the clauses and break up the sentence a little.

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