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Dependent Clause

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English

When reading and writing sentences you may have noticed how some parts of the sentence can be understood on their own whereas other parts simply give extra information and need context to be understood. These parts of the sentence that provide extra information are called dependent clauses. This article will introduce dependent clauses, provide some examples, outline the three different types of dependent clauses, and look at different sentence types that include dependent clauses.

What is a Dependent Clause?

A dependent clause (also called a subordinate clause) is a part of a sentence that relies on the independent clause to make sense. It often gives us additional information that is not included in the independent clause. A dependent clause can tell us all sorts of things, such as when, why, or how something is happening.

after I've got there.

This tells us that something will happen after the subject has gone somewhere. However, it does not make sense on its own and needs to be attached to an independent clause to get its meaning.

I will get books from the library after I've got there.

With the added independent clause, we now have a fully formed sentence.

Dependent clause examples

Here are some dependent clauses on their own. Try to spot what you could add to them to create full sentences.

Although he is tired.

Because of the cat.

Before we started.

Now we will pair an independent clause with the dependent clause, using the subordinating conjunction word at the start of each dependent clause to link them together. Notice how each one now makes a complete sentence.

Subordinating conjunction - Words (or sometimes phrases) that link one clause to another. For example, and, although, because, when, whilst, before, after.

Although he was tired, he kept working.

We've run out of milk, all because of the cat.

I was prepared before we started.

By adding the independent clause, we have created complete sentences that makes sense. Let's look at these and explore how the independent clause works alongside the dependent clause.

The independent clause of the first sentence is 'He kept working'. This alone could work as a full sentence as it contains a subject and a predicate. The dependent clause is 'he is tired', which isn't a full sentence. We join the dependent clause onto the end of the independent clause using the conjunction although to create a complex sentence.

Dependent clause Image of cat drinking milk StudySmarterDependent clauses give us more information as to why the milk is all gone - Pixabay

Connecting independent and dependent clauses

Connecting independent and dependent clauses creates complex sentences. It's important to use complex sentences in our writing to avoid repetition and boring sentences. However, we must take care to join the clauses together correctly.

When joining an independent clause with a dependent clause, we can use subordinating conjunction words, such as if, since, although, when, after, while, as, before, until, whenever, and because. Either clause can go first.

Lily was happy whenever she ate cake.

Whenever she ate cake, Lily was happy.

When the subordinating conjunction and dependent clause go first, the two clauses should be separated with a comma.

Three types of dependent clauses

There are three main types of dependent clauses. Let's take a look at each one.

Adverbial dependent clauses

Adverbial dependent clauses give us more information about the verb found in the main clause. They usually answer the questions who, what, where, when, why and how the verb was performed. Adverbial dependent clauses often begin with the subordinating conjunctions relating to time, such as after, before, while, as soon as.

She decided she wanted to be a researcher after her time at university.

Noun dependent clauses

Noun dependent clauses can take the role of a noun within a sentence. If the noun clause is acting as the subject of the sentence, then it is not a dependent clause. If it is acting as the object of the sentence, then it is a dependent clause.

Noun clauses typically begin with interrogative pronouns, such as who, what, when, where, which, why, and how.

She wanted to meet someone who was handsome.

Relative dependent clauses

A relative dependent clause gives more information about the noun in the independent clause - in many ways it acts as an adjective. They always begin with a relative pronoun, such as that, which, who, and whom.

I love the new bookshop, which is located downtown.

Why do we use dependent clauses?

Independent clauses give us the main idea contained in the sentence. Dependent clauses are used to add to the sentence. This can be done through different information being given in the dependent clause.

Dependent clauses can be used to establish a place, a time, a condition, a reason, or a comparison to the independent clause. This does not mean that a dependent clause is limited to giving these types of information - it can contain any additional information that relates to the independent clause.

Independent clauses and dependent clauses

Independent clauses are what dependent clauses rely on. They contain a subject and a predicate and create a full idea or thought. They are combined with dependent clauses to create different sentence types and to give more information about the subject of the sentence.

Dependent clauses and sentence types

Dependent clauses can be used in two different sentence types. These sentence types are complex sentences and compound-complex sentences.

  • Complex sentences contain one independent clause with one or more dependent clauses attached to it. The dependent clauses will be connected to the independent clause with a conjunction word and/or a comma depending on the positioning of the clauses.

  • Compound-complex sentences are very similar in structure to complex sentences; however, they have the addition of multiple independent clauses rather than just one. This often means (but is not always the case) that there is only one dependent clause used to accompany the multiple independent clauses.

Sentences with dependent clauses

Let's consider complex sentences first. To form a complex sentence, we need one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

Amy was eating while she spoke.

This is an example of one independent clause being paired with a dependent clause. Below you can see how the sentence would change if another dependent clause was added.

After her lunch break, Amy was eating while she spoke.

'Amy was eating' is still the independent clause, but there are multiple dependent clauses in this sentence.

When writing compound-complex sentences, we must include multiple independent clauses. We can develop the above example sentence to contain another independent clause and make it a compound-complex sentence.

Andrew tried to eat his lunch, but Amy was eating while she spoke.

We now have a compound-complex sentence, with the two independent clauses 'Andrew tried to eat his lunch' and 'Amy was eating' and the dependent clause 'while she spoke'.

Dependent Clause - key takeaways

  • Dependent clauses are one of the two major clause types in English.
  • Dependent clauses rely on independent clauses; they add information to the sentence.
  • Dependent clauses can be used in two types of sentences. They are included in complex sentences and compound-complex sentences.
  • Dependent clauses contain information about time, place, etc., and always relate to the independent clause somehow.
  • There are three main types of dependent clauses: adverbial dependent clauses,

Dependent Clause

A dependent clause is a clause that relies on the independent clause to make a full sentence. It adds information to the independent clause and helps to describe what is happening in the independent clause.

You can identify the dependent clause by trying to see if it makes sense on its own. A dependent clause will not make sense on its own - so if it doesn’t work as a full sentence, it is probably a dependent clause.

An example of a dependent clause is 'although it’s bad'. It doesn’t work as a full sentence but can be used alongside an independent clause.

Take a look at this sentence: 'Jem went for a walk after the practice.' The dependent clause in this sentence is “after the practice” as it gives us some information about when Jem is going for a walk.

A dependent clause can also be called a subordinate clause. Dependent clauses are often linked to the rest of the sentence by a subordinating conjunction.

Final Dependent Clause Quiz

Question

What is a dependent clause?

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Answer

A dependent clause is a clause that relies on the independent clause and gives extra information about the independent clause.

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Question

What sort of conjunction is often used to link a dependent clause to a sentence?


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Answer

A subordinating conjunction.

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Question

 How can you identify a dependent clause?


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Answer

By seeing if it would make sense as its sentence.

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Question

What is an independent clause?

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Answer

The main clause of a sentence contains a whole idea, a subject, and a predicate.

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Question

Which of the following sentence types contain a dependent clause?

  1. Compound sentence.

  2. Simple sentence.

  3. Complex sentence.

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Answer

C.

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Question

What are the two types of sentences that contain a dependent clause?


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Answer

Complex sentences and compound-complex sentences.

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Question

Which of the following is something that can be expressed in a dependent clause?

  1. Time

  2. Gender

  3. Building

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Answer

A. Time can be expressed in a dependent clause.

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Question

True or false: An independent clause and a dependent clause both contain some form of the subject.


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Answer

True.

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Question

What are dependent clauses also known as?


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Answer

A subordinate clause.

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Question

Which of the following isn’t subordinating conjunction?

  1. If

  2. After

  3. So

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Answer

C. So is a coordinating conjunction.

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Question

What is a compound-complex sentence made up of?


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Answer

Multiple independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.

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Question

What is a complex sentence made up of?


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Answer

One independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

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Question

True or false: Independent clauses are necessary for every sentence but dependent clauses are optional.


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Answer

True. Independent clauses are used in every sentence but dependent clauses are only used in some.

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Question

Which of the following is a subordinating conjunction?

  1. For

  2. Because

  3. And

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Answer

B. Because it is a subordinating conjunction.

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Question

What two punctuation marks are commonly used to link clauses?


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Answer

Commas and semicolons.

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Question

What are the three different types of dependent clauses?

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Answer

  • Adverbial dependent clause
  • Relative dependent clause
  • Noun dependent clause

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Question

Which type of dependent clause gives more information about the main verb?

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Answer

Adverbial dependent clause. 

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Question

Which type of dependent clause gives more information about the main noun?


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Answer

Relative dependent clause.

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Question

Which type of dependent clause can take the role of any noun in a sentence? 


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Answer

Noun dependent clause.

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Question

Which group of words are considered relative pronouns?

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Answer

That, which, who and whom.

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