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Independent Clause

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Independent Clause

Clauses are a vital part of the English language - without clauses, there are no sentences! This article is about independent clauses, the building blocks of sentences. It will introduce and define independent clauses, explain how to form independent clauses and successfully join them together, provide many examples, and compare the difference between independent and dependent clauses.

Independent clause definition

An independent clause (sometimes known as the main clause) supports the main idea of the sentence - this could be an action, thought, idea, state, etc. It is called an independent clause as it does not rely on any other parts of a sentence to make sense; it is independent. Independent clauses can even be sentences in their own right.

She ate an apple.

How do you form an independent clause?

An independent clause has to contain a subject (the focus of the sentence, this can be a person, place, object, etc.) and a predicate (the part of the sentence that contains a verb or information about the subject).

She (subject) + ate an apple (predicate).

You will often see independent clauses that contain a subject and a verb but this doesn't mean independent clauses are limited to containing just those. They can also contain an object and/or a modifier - these are optional when trying to form an independent clause.

Independent clause Image of girl eating an apple StudySmarter'She ate an apple' is an independent clause and a complete sentence - Pixabay

Independent clause examples

Here are some examples of independent clauses:

Sally walked her dog

I spoke

Jane, Amy, and Carl were running

Each of these independent clauses is of varying lengths, but each contains a subject and a predicate. Some have multiple subjects but this doesn't change the fact that they are independent clauses.

How to join independent clauses together

Independent clauses can make full sentences on their own, but sometimes it is necessary to join two or more together to create longer and more complex sentences. When two independent clauses are joined together, they create compound sentences.

The joining of two independent clauses can be done in two different ways: they can be linked by a conjunction and/or punctuation. Independent clauses can be joined with a semicolon (;) or with a comma (,) and an accompanying conjunction (e.g. for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so, etc.).

Let's take a look at some examples:

A semicolon between independent clauses = 'I bought cakes' she bought coffee.'

A comma and conjunction between independent clauses = 'I bought cakes, and she bought coffee.'

Why are independent clauses important?

Independent clauses are the basis for all sentences. There are four sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Each of these will always contain an independent clause and some sentence types include multiple independent clauses!

We are now going to think about why we use independent clauses and how they relate to sentence types and dependent clauses.

Why do we use independent clauses?

Clauses are the building blocks for sentences and independent clauses are included in every sentence. Each sentence has at least one independent clause, and they can (but don't always) make up sentences on their own. This in itself should explain how important they are - but why do we need an independent clause in a sentence? And why don't dependent clauses form their own sentences?

We use independent clauses to form a whole idea, which can be used to create a sentence. Take a look at the clauses below - they are all incomplete ideas (dependent clauses), and they don't seem to work on their own (independently).

After the party

But Emma doesn't

Although I use plain flour

By looking at the first example (After the party), we can see that it gives us some information but it isn't a complete sentence. In this case, we would need to pair it with an independent clause to form a whole and complete sentence. Below are some examples of how this clause could be paired with independent clauses to create a complete sentence.

After the party, we went home.

I was going out after the party.

Sam ordered pizza after the party.

After the party, no one left.

These now work as sentences as there is a subject and predicate in each one. The partially formed idea after the party had to be paired with an independent clause so that it makes sense. This is why independent clauses are so important.

Independent clauses and dependent clauses

The examples of partially formed ideas that you read in the above section are all examples of dependent clauses. These are clauses that rely on an independent clause to become part of a coherent sentence.

Dependent clauses are helpful as they give additional information about a sentence, but they cannot be used without independent clauses. They need the independent clause so that the information can make sense.

Independent clauses and sentence types

Independent clauses are used to create different sentence types. Let's explore the ways they are used in each of the four sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.

  • Simple sentences contain one independent clause.

  • Compound sentences are formed using two or more independent clauses. They are linked together with punctuation and conjunctions.

  • Complex sentences contain independent clauses and dependent clauses linked together. In complex sentences, the independent clause has additional information attached to it.

  • Compound-complex sentences have multiple independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.

Independent Clause - Key Takeaways

  • Independent clauses are the foundation for all sentences.
  • Independent clauses contain a complete idea and can stand alone as sentences.
  • They are formed with a subject and a predicate - they can optionally include a modifier and an object.
  • Independent clauses can are joined together with punctuation and conjunctions.
  • Independent clauses can be combined with other independent clauses and dependent clauses to create different sentence types in the English language.

Frequently Asked Questions about Independent Clause

An independent clause is one of the two major clause types in the English language. It contains a subject and a predicate, and can also include modifiers and objects. They are used in all sentence types and can be used alongside dependent clauses.

Yes, you can use a comma to separate two independent clauses, but you must also use a conjunction word (e.g. and, but, although). You can also use semicolons to join independent clauses.

Here is an example of an independent clause: 'Timothy stroked the cat.' It is an independent clause as it contains a subject and a predicate, which means it will make sense on its own.

The main difference between independent and dependent clauses is that an independent clause creates a whole idea whereas a dependent clause relies on an independent clause to make sense.

Independent clauses can be joined together by punctuation marks or conjunctions. They are often joined together by a comma and conjunction word or a semicolon.

Final Independent Clause Quiz

Question

What is an independent clause?

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Answer

A clause that works well on its own and can form a whole sentence.

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Question

What does an independent clause have to contain?


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Answer

A subject and a predicate.

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Question

What can be included in an independent clause?


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Answer

A modifier and/or an object.

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Question

What type of sentence is made from a single independent clause?


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Answer

A simple sentence.

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Question

True or false: Dependent clauses don’t form complete sentences because they have too many subjects.


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Answer

False. Dependent clauses don’t form a complete sentence because they don’t have a complete idea.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is an independent clause?

  1. Although it’s raining

  2. She started sprinting

  3. Before the train

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Answer

B. It makes sense on its own and can be a complete sentence.

Show question

Question

True or false: Independent clauses can be joined by a conjunction or a punctuation mark.


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Answer

True. They can be joined by a comma and a conjunction or a semicolon.

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Question

What types of conjunctions are often used to link independent clauses?


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Answer

Coordinating conjunctions.

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Question

Which of the following is not a coordinating conjunction?

  1. For 

  2. If 

  3. Or

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Answer

 B. The word ‘if’ is a subordinating conjunction.

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Question

Which two of the following contain only independent clauses?


  1. Simple sentences

  2. Complex sentences 

  3. Compound sentences

  4. Compound-complex sentences

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Answer

 A and C. Simple sentences contain one independent clause, and compound sentences contain two or more independent clauses.

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Question

True or false: Compound sentences are the only sentence type with multiple independent clauses.


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Answer

False. Compound-complex sentences also contain multiple independent clauses.

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Question

What do dependent clauses add to sentences?


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Answer

Additional information.

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Question

Can there be multiple subjects in a single independent clause?


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Answer

Yes. The number of subjects does not matter when writing an independent clause.

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Question

Which of the following punctuation could you use to separate two independent clauses?

  1. Parentheses

  2. Apostrophe 

  3. Semicolon 

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Answer

C. Semicolons are often used to separate two independent clauses.

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Question

True or false: Independent clauses are included in every sentence. 


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Answer

True. Independent clauses are used in every sentence type.

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Question

Is this a grammatically correct sentence?

'She went to Spain; he went to Portugal.'

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Answer

Yes

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Question

Is this a grammatically correct sentence?

'She went to Spain, he went to Portugal.'

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Answer

No.

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Question

What's wrong with this sentence?

'He wanted a cat, she wanted a dog.'

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Answer

When joining two independent clauses with a comma we must also use a conjunction word. E.g. 'He wanted a cat, but she wanted a dog.'

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Question

True or false, independent clauses can be sentences on their own?

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Answer

True.

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Question

What type of sentence is this?

'I'm feeling sad today because of the rain'

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Answer

A complex sentence. It contains one independent and one dependent clause. 

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