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
An independent clause can actually stand alone as a complete sentence with appropriate punctuation.
The bells are ringing.
She ran away!
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.
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.