What is a Clause?

May 22, 2021

Definition: A clause is a group of words that has both a subject and a predicate. Every complete sentence is made up of at least one clause.

Michael bought a new computer. (One sentence, one clause)
Michael bought a new computer, but he still has the old one. (One sentence, two clauses)
Although he still has his old one, Michael now has a new computer. (One sentence, two clauses)

Definition: An independent clause (or main clause) makes sense by itself. It expresses a complete thought.

Michael bought a new computer. (One independent clause)
Michael bought a new computer, but he still has the old one. [Two independent clauses (Coordinating conjunctions don’t count as part of the clause.)]
Although he still has his old one, Michael now has a new computer. (Only the second clause is independent.)

Definition: A dependent clause (or subordinate clause) does not make sense by itself. It does not express a complete thought.

Although he still has his old one. (Without the independent clause, a dependent clause is a sentence fragment.)

A dependent clause usually begins with a subordinating conjunction, a relative pronoun, or some other word that causes it to become dependent. A dependent clause will make sense only when attached to an independent clause.

Although he still has his old one. (Although is a subordinating conjunction.)
He still has his old one. (Without the conjunction, the clause becomes independent.)

Michael now has a new computer although he still has his old one. (Combined with an independent clause, the dependent clause makes sense.)

Dependent clauses can come after, before, or in the middle of the independent clause.

Michael now has a new computer although he still has his old one. (Dependent clause after an independent clause)
Although he still has his old one, Michael now has a new computer. (Dependent clause before the independent clause)
Michael, although he still has his old one, now has a new computer. (Dependent clause inside the independent clause)


admin