Independent Clause: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Independent Clause Defined
  • 0:33 Sentence Types
  • 1:13 Run-ons & Fragments
  • 2:39 More About Fragments
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Firestone
In this lesson, you'll learn what an independent clause is and how it's different from a dependent clause. You'll also learn some of the problems that writers encounter with independent clauses and how to correct them.

Independent Clause Defined

An independent clause is a group of words that can stand alone as a sentence. It has both a subject and a verb and forms a complete thought.

Clarity Depends on the Independent Clause

Independent clauses make clear communication possible, whether we're writing or speaking. Think of the independent clause as one of the natural laws of the English language, similar to gravity. Like gravity, we don't think about it, but we wouldn't function very well without it, either. Learning about independent clauses will help you recognize grammatical errors and make your writing more effective.

Sentence Types

Independent clauses are used in all types of complete sentences: simple, compound, complex and compound-complex. All require at least one independent clause. For example:

  • A simple sentence (with one independent clause) would be: 'Dave sleeps.'
  • A compound sentence (with two independent clauses) is: 'Dave sleeps, and Sam reads.'
  • A complex sentence (with one independent clause and at least one dependent clause) would be: 'When Dave sleeps, Sam reads.'
  • A complex-compound sentence (with at least two independent clauses and one dependent clause) is: 'Dave sleeps, and because he has the house quiet at last, Sam reads.'

Run-ons and Fragments

Like anything else, independent clauses have ways of going bad. For example, in compound and complex sentences, the right punctuation and coordinators are required. Without them, independent clauses become run-on sentences, and dependent clauses become sentence fragments.

If you write run-on sentences, readers will most likely end up going over it again and again in order to get a firm understanding of what you're trying to say. This is no fun for the reader, and it risks damaging your credibility as the writer.

Even though run-on sentences and fragments are fairly common, they're considered major English errors. Sometimes, you'll see them in literary works - some writers use artistic license to stray from the conventions of grammar - but they should otherwise be avoided.

Run-ons always involve at least two independent clauses. Here's an example:

'Dave sleeps Sam reads.'

Another type of run-on is the 'comma splice', as shown in this example:

'Dave sleeps, Sam reads.'

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