A Review of Clauses

In review, an independent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb, and expresses a complete thought, which enables it to stand alone as a sentence; whereas, a dependent clause is a group of words that, though it contains a subject and a verb, does not express a complete thought because it begins with a subordinating conjunction.

Here are the types of sentences that can be constructed from independent and dependent clauses.

  • A simple sentence contains one independent clause.
    • She threw the ball.
  • A compound sentence contains at least two independent clauses.
    • She threw the ball, and he caught it.
  • A complex sentence contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.
    • When she threw the ball to him, he dropped it.
    • When she threw the ball, he dropped it because he lost it in the sun.
  • A compound-complex sentence contains at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.
    • He wanted to ask her to go to the dance when he saw her yesterday, but he was too nervous.

Complex Sentences

A complex sentence contains both an independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

Example: After she ate the spaghetti, she went for a walk.

The dependent clause can either precede or follow the independent clause. In the above example, it precedes it. In the next example, it follows it.

Example: She went for a walk after she ate the spaghetti.

Rule: When the dependent clause precedes the independent clause, the dependent clause needs to end with a comma; however, when the dependent clause follows the independent clause, the independent clause is not followed by a comma.

In addition, one dependent clause can precede the independent clause and another can follow it.

Example: After the batter struck out, he threw the bat into the stands because his strikeout cost his team the pennant.

Test your skill:
(The following questions are for the example immediately above.)

1. What’s the subject of the first dependent clause?
2. What’s the verb in the second dependent clause?
3. What is the subject and verb in the independent clause?

The answers will be in the next grammar post.


A clause is one of the building blocks of English sentences. It contains both a subject and a verb and might express a complete thought. Whether it does depends upon what type of clause it is. A dependent clause never expresses a complete thought; whereas, an independent clause always does.

Example: He refused to watch the Knicks play.

The above example contains an independent clause. Its subject is “He,” and the verb is “refused.” Further, the sentence makes sense.

Example: Because he refused to watch the Knicks play.

This example has the same subject and verb as the previous one; however, it’s not an independent clause. Instead, it’s a dependent clause. It contains an incomplete thought. The only way it can be made complete is by adding an independent clause to it.

A clause can have more than one noun or pronoun as its subject.

Example: Jack and Jill ran up the hill.

In this example, the subject contains two nouns, Jack and Jill, thus it’s a compound subject. A compound subject requires a plural verb, as in “Jack and Jill are friends.” Likewise, a subject can have more than one verb, as in the next example.

Example: Jack danced and sang in the play.

This example’s “simple subject,” Jack, contains only one noun but has a compound verb, whose elements are underlined.

The answer to yesterday’s true/false question is true. If you remove the subordinating conjunction from a dependent clause, you have converted the dependent clause into an independent clause. However, if the dependent clause began the sentence, you’ve also created a grammar error: the comma splice. More in the next grammar post.