The two main types of clauses in English grammar which are fundamental to sentence building are:
A clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb. It is not the same as a sentence, which consists of all the clauses or phrases between two full stops.
Even though John likes golf, he played cricket at the weekend, and he enjoyed it very much.
SV____ , SV ____ , SV ____
If you take a look at the above sentence, there are three sets of subject-verbs in the sentence, so there are three clauses.
However, there are only two types of clauses in the sentence: one dependent clause and two independent clauses. So what is the difference between dependent and independent clauses?
There are two key elements of an independent clause:
'Complete thought' means that the clause makes sense on its own without having to add anything to it.
If there is only one of this type of clause i.e. one S-V combination, it is called a simple sentence:
I don't like studying too hard
We left at 9am yesterday
Some employees are going on strike
Yesterday, the weather was terrible
If we want to add two or three independent clauses together, then we use a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, yet, so, nor).
If we do this, these types of clauses are called compound sentences:
I don't like studying too hard, but I know you do. (x2)
We left at 9am yesterday, and the train was on time, so we arrived in time for the meeting. (x3)
Some employees are going on strike, for they want more pay. (x2)
Yesterday, the weather was terrible, yet today it's lovely, so we'll stay out all day. (x3)
But the important point is that all the clauses if used alone still express a complete thought, as you can see if we take the three clauses from the second sentence:
Of course we don't have the same meaning without the coordinating conjunctions as these show the relationships between the clauses, but they still make sense alone.
There are two key elements of a dependent clause:
So unlike an independent clause, this type of clause will not make sense on it's own even though it has a subject and verb.
To make sense, it must be joined with an independent clause. That is why dependent clauses are also called subordinating clauses - they are subordinate to (under the control of) the main clause, as they cannot exist without it.
Even though John likes golf...[Dependent Clause]
he played cricket at the weekend [Independent Clause]
Even though John likes golf, he played cricket at the weekend
Dependent Clause + Independent Clause
'Even though John likes golf' does not make sense on its own, but it does once we add the main clause to it.
Rather than coordinating conjunctions, the relationship between these types of clauses is expressed through subordinating conjunctions, such as while, although, even though, as soon as, since, despite, which, who, that, etc.
When we join these two types of clauses, we get a complex sentence. Here are some examples of complex sentences, with the dependent clause in green:
He likes southern Spain, whereas I like the north
Canberra, which is the capital of Australia, is a fairly new town
Although mathematics is complicated, I'm determined to pass
I'll be retiring soon as I'm nearly 70 years old
There are three main types of dependent clauses:
Learn more about these types of dependent clauses.
Test yourself on what you have learned in this lesson:
independent and dependent clauses quiz
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