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Clauses Parts of a Sentence

Clauses Parts of a Sentence

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Published by Claudita Mosquera

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Published by: Claudita Mosquera on Oct 07, 2010
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Parts of a Sentence: Clauses

‡ What is a Clause? ‡ Independent Clauses ‡ Dependent Clauses ‡ Combining Clauses Using Subordinating Conjunctions ‡ Combining Clauses Using Relative Clauses ‡ Combining Clauses Using Coordinating Conjunctions

What is a Clause?
A clause is a group of related words that has both a subject and a verb.


These are clauses because each has a subject and a verb. Furthermore, they are Independent Clauses (IC) because each one also expresses a complete thought.

Therefore, each one can stand independently as a complete sentence.

Independent Clauses
An Independent Clause (IC) can stand on its own because it has a subject and a verb, and it expresses a complete thought. We also call an independent clause a simple sentence or sometimes a main clause. For our purposes, we will continue to call them independent clauses (IC).

Here are some more independent clauses.



However, not all clauses are independent because not all clauses express a complete thought.

Dependent Clauses
Remember, a clause is a group of related words with both a subject and a verb. Some clauses also express a complete thought and we call them independent because they can stand independently as sentences.

HOWEVER, some clauses do NOT express a complete thought. We call those dependent clauses. They must depend on an independent clause to be part of a complete sentence.
after we found our dog because Shakespeare is a genius


who works at the bank



These are clauses because they each have a subject and verb. However, they do not express complete thoughts. To be a part of a complete sentence, they must depend on an Independent Clause by being joined to it.

For these three dependent clauses to be part of a complete sentence, we must join them to an independent clause.

After we found our dog, we had to give him a bath. S V S V Because Shakespeare is a genius, his plays are relevant today. S V S V

Tom, who works at the bank, is good at managing his money. S S V V

Now the dependent clauses are part of complete sentences. In the third sentence, the dependent clause separates the subject and verb of the independent clause.

There are two types of Dependent Clauses.
While we can identify dependent clauses in three categories: adverb clauses, adjective clauses, and noun clauses based on the function each clause has in the sentence, for our purposes, we are going to identify them as

subordinate clauses and relative clauses.
A subordinate clause begins with a subordinate conjunction. It is this subordinate conjunction which prevents the clause from expressing a complete thought.
Read this IC aloud: Bob goes fishing every Friday. Did you hear it express a complete thought?

Now look at the same sentence with subordinate conjunctions added to it:: Because Bob goes fishing every Friday When Bob goes fishing every Friday

Did you notice how the addition of the subordinate conjunction keeps the clause from expressing a complete thought even though it expressed a complete thought before we added either subordinate conjunction?
What happens because Bob goes fishing?

We don¶ t know because the thought is not complete.

What happens when Bob goes fishing?

We don¶t know because the thought is not complete.

When a subordinate conjunction (sc) is added to the front of an independent clause (IC), the independent clause becomes dependent (DC). You can test this by removing the subordinate conjunction and reading the clause. Without the subordinating conjunction, the clause will express a complete thought. Use this ³equation´ to remember the rule: sc + IC = DC

Subordinate conjunctions can be used to join two independent clauses.
Because a subordinate conjunction (sc) makes an independent clause (IC) dependent, it can be used to join two independent clauses together by making one dependent.

Look at these two independent clauses:

Michael has played football since he was 6. Michael has been offered football scholarships at several colleges.

We can join these two independent clauses by adding a subordinate conjunction to one of them. Because Michael has played football since he was six, he has been offered football scholarships at several colleges.

We have created a complex sentence by making one of the independent clauses dependent and joining it to another independent clause.

This is a great time to learn a comma rule.
When the subordinate clause comes in front of the independent clause, the subordinate clause is followed by a comma because the dependent clause acts as an introductory element.

You can remember this rule with this ´formula:µ DC, IC
When the independent clause comes in front of the subordinate clause, there is NO comma.

Use this rule to remember: IC DC Read this as ³I see no comma´ DC.

It is essential that you recognize subordinate conjunctions when you see them, so memorize the list at the end of this presentation.

Relative clauses
The other type of dependent clause that we are going to look at is the relative clause. It is called a relative clause because it ³relates´ to another word in the sentence. It is placed next to the word it relates to (or modifies) to avoid confusion. What it does is give more information about the word or phrase it modifies.

Tammy, who lives in California, is working in New York this week. The relative clause, ³who lives in California,´ modifies ³Tammy´ and gives us more information about her. Relative clauses usually begin with relative pronouns. These are the relative pronouns: Who, Whom, Whose That, Which

ote: never use which to relate to people.

Can you spot the relative clauses in these sentences?
Football, which is Tom·s favorite sport, is exciting to watch in person.

William Shakespeare, who was named the writer of the millennium, wrote more than 35 plays. Mel has good ideas that are usually made into great action plans.

Essential and Non-essential Relative Clauses
Something that is essential is something that is necessary. An essential relative clause is a clause whose information is essential to the meaning of the sentence. Conversely, a non-essential relative clause is one that is not necessary and can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

This is an essential relative clause: Students who miss four classes will lose ten points from their final grade. The relative clause, ³who miss four classes,´ modifies the noun, ³students.´ It is essential because it is only these students who will lose the points.

It·s time for another comma rule: Notice that because the clause is essential, it is NOT surrounded by commas. A non-essential clause is, however, surrounded by commas. Think of them as ³hooks´ that can lift this non-essential clause out of the sentence.

Now let¶s look at some non-essential clauses.
Mr. Sims, whom we hired yesterday, quit today. We can take, ³whom we hired yesterday,´ out of the sentence and the sentence loses no meaning. The information that we hired him yesterday is not necessary. Ms. Stevens, whose computer exploded yesterday, is back at work today. Again, we can take the relative clause out of the sentence, and the sentence does not lose its meaning. Michael, who wants to be a professional baseball player, practices pitching five hours a day. This relative clause can also be ³lifted´ out of the sentence with those comma ³hooks´ because the information is not essential. Notice that all of the non-essential clauses are surrounded by commas.

Two independent clauses can be joined by changing one of the independent clauses into a relative clause.

Look at these two independent clauses:

Prague is an ancient European city. There are many architectural treasures in Prague.

We can join these two independent clauses by changing one of them into a relative clause. There are many architectural treasures in Prague, which is an ancient city.

Look at these two independent clauses:

Monet was the father of Impressionism. Monet painted the effects of light.

Let·s join these two independent clauses by making one of them a relative clause.

Monet, who was the father of Impressionism, painted the effects of light.

Joining Two Independent Clauses Using the Coordinating Conjunctions
The coordinating conjunctions are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.
A good trick to help you memorize them is the acronym fan boys. It spells the first letter of each of the coordinating conjunctions.

A coordinating conjunction is used to join two or more grammatical elements, which can be, for example, two or more nouns, two or more verbs, two or more phrases, or two or more independent clauses. We will bring a cake and a pie. Will you wash or wax the car? Let¶s go to the movie or to the park. The coordinating conjunction, and, joins two nouns. The coordinating conjunction, or, joins two verbs. The coordinating conjunction, or, joins two prepositional phrases.

Coordination and Compound Sentences

When a coordinating conjunction is used to join two grammatical elements, we call it compounding. Therefore, when two independent clauses (simple sentences) are joined with a coordinating conjunction (cc), we call that a compound sentence.
Let·s look at two independent clauses:

Prague is an ancient European city. It has many architectural treasures.

Now let·s join the two sentences (independent clauses) using a coordinating conjunction.
Prague is an ancient European city, so it has many architectural treasures.

Notice that a complete sentence is on each side of the coordinating conjunction.

How do I know which coordinating conjunction to use?
We join two independent clauses (IC) because the ideas in the two sentences are related. Each of the coordinating conjunctions expresses a relationship. Use the one that indicates the relationship between the two sentences. For introduces a cause: So introduces an effect: But indicates contrast: Yet emphasizes contrast: Or indicates choice: Nor is used when both sentences are negative. And indicates addition: We can¶t go sailing, for Jack sank the boat. Jack sank the boat, so we can¶t go sailing. Jack enjoys sailing, but Tom enjoys fishing. Sue wants to be a ballerina, yet she can¶t balance on her toes. Dad and I can go to a movie, or we can all go to the park. Mark will not go to chic flicks. He will not go to documentaries. This becomes: Mark will not go to chic flicks, nor will he go to documentaries. Derek brought the food, and we brought the drinks.

Notice that there is a comma after each first sentence but before the conjunction.

Comma Rule When two independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, the conjunction needs its punctuation partner, the comma.
We will let IC stand for independent clause and cc stand for coordinating conjunction and create an ³equation´ that you can use to remember this comma rule:

IC, cc IC
Neither the comma nor the conjunction on its own is strong enough to hold the two clauses together. Using just the comma (which would be a comma splice) or just the conjunction (which would be a run on) to join the two separate sentences together would be like trying to use toothpaste in place of mortar to build a brick wall.

The wall will fall down and you will have an oozy mess!

Caution: When you use a coordinating conjunction, you don·t
always use the comma.
The comma is used with a coordinating conjunction for two reasons:

1. The comma separates items in a series of three or more: Please pick up eggs, butter, and milk. 2. The comma works with a coordinating conjunction to join two complete sentences: Mark brought the food, and we brought the drinks. Let·s change that last sentence to: Mark brought the food and the drinks. Notice that we don·t need the comma anymore. This is because we are no longer joining two complete sentences. While ´Mark brought the food ,µis a complete sentence, ´the drinks,µ is not a complete sentence.

TIP: When you see a sentence with a coordinating conjunction (and the conjunction is not joining a series of items of three or more) use the coordinating conjunction (cc) as a dividing line to see if you need a comma.
Wiley Coyote chases the Road Runner, but he never catches him.



If what is in front of the coordinating conjunction is a complete sentence and what is behind the coordinating conjunction is also a complete sentence I need a comma.

Wiley Coyote chases the Road Runner but never catches him.

While what is in front of the conjunction (but) is a complete sentence, what is behind it is just a verb phrase, so we cannot use the comma partner.

Those are clauses and conjunctions. You should now be able to identify them. This should be enough to get you started on combining clauses, using conjunctions and identifying run-ons and fragments. Don¶t forget to learn and review the subordinating conjunctions and the relative pronouns. A list of subordinating conjunctions follows.

When a writer chooses a subordinate conjunction to join two independent clauses together, he or she chooses it to show the relationship between the ideas in the two independent clauses. So subordinate conjunctions express relationships


ause or Reason
As If As if Because Since Whereas Unless That So that

As After As soon as Before Once Until When Whenever While

Where Wherever

Contrast or Comparison
Although As (if) As though Even if Provided (that) Than Though

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