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Published Feb 08, 2016

What is a clause

A clause is a group of words containing both a subject and a verb. Examples of clauses are:

  • The bells are ringing

  • She ran away

Independent Clauses

An independent clause can actually stand alone as a complete sentence with appropriate punctuation.

  • The bells are ringing.

  • She ran away!

Dependent Clauses

A dependent clause can’t stand on its own as a complete sentence. It’s a clause that supplies an independent clause with more information.

  • Since the bells are ringing.

  • Because she ran away.

It needs an independent clause to make it a complete sentence. Dependent clauses are joined to independent clauses with a subordinate conjunction (e.g., although, since, if, when, because, etc.).

  • Since the bells are ringing, we must be late for church.

  • We’re searching for Audrey because she ran away.

Using Clauses in a Sentence

Clauses can also act as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.

  • I can’t remember what I did yesterday.

The clause “what I did yesterday” acts like a noun. Compare this example to “I can’t remember my actions.”

  • My daughter, who is afraid of heights, is flying across the country today.

The clause “who is afraid of heights” describes “my daughter.”

  • I dropped my bag when the dog lunged at me.

The clause “when the dog lunged at me” tells us when I dropped my bag.


Now that you know the difference between a dependent and independent clause and how to use clauses as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, you can structure better sentences for your reader’s enjoyment.

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The ProWritingAid Team
ProWritingAid: A grammar guru, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.

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