Sentence Structure: GED Test Prep (page 2)

Updated on Jul 5, 2011

Subordinating Conjunctions

What makes a dependent clause dependent is a subordinating conjunction such as the word because. Subordinating conjunctions connect clauses and help show the relationship between those clauses. Here is a list of the most common subordinating conjunctions:

When a clause begins with a subordinating conjunction, it is dependent. It must be connected to an independent clause to become a complete thought:

I never knew true happiness independent clause         until I met you. dependent clause
After Johnson quit, dependent clause         I had to work overtime. independent clause

A sentence with both a dependent clause (DC) and independent clause (IC) is called a complex sentence. Both of the previous sentences are complex sentences.

Conjunctive Adverbs

A very common grammar mistake is to think that words such as however and therefore are subordinating conjunctions. However and therefore belong to a group of words called conjunctive adverbs. These words also signal relationships between parts of a sentence. When they are used with a semicolon, they can combine independent clauses.

Here are some examples:

I didn't go to the party; instead, I stayed home and watched a good film.
Samantha is a fabulous cook; indeed, she may even be better than Jacque.
I need to pay this bill immediately. Otherwise, my phone service will be cut off.

Compound Sentences and Coordinating Conjunctions

When two independent clauses are combined, the result is a compound sentence like the following: He was late, so he lost the account.

The most common way to join two independent clauses is with a comma and a coordinating conjunction: and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet. Independent clauses can also be joined with a semicolon if the ideas in the sentences are closely related.

      I am tall, and he is short.
      [IC, coordinating conjunction + IC]
      I am tall; he is short.
      [IC; IC]
      I was late, yet I still got the account.
      [IC, coordinating conjunction + IC]

Sentence Boundaries

Expressing complete ideas and clearly indicating where sentences begin and end are essential to effective writing. Two of the most common grammatical errors with sentence boundaries are fragments and run-ons.

Incomplete Sentences (Fragments)

As we stated earlier, a complete sentence must (1) have both a subject (who or what performs the action) and a verb (a state of being or an action), and (2) express a complete thought. If you don't complete a thought, or if you are missing a subject or verb (or both), then you have an incomplete sentence (also called a sentence fragment). To correct a fragment, add the missing subject or verb or otherwise change the sentence to complete the thought.

Incomplete: Which is simply not true. [No subject. (Which is not a subject.)]

Complete: That is simply not true.

Incomplete: For example, the French Revolution. [No verb.]

Complete: The best example is the French Revolution.

Incomplete: Even though the polar icecaps are melting. [Subject and verb, but not a complete thought.]

Complete: Some people still don't believe in global warming even though the polar icecaps are melting.

Run-on Sentences

A run-on sentence occurs when one sentence "runs" right into the next without proper punctuation between them. Usually, there's either no punctuation at all or just a comma between the two thoughts. But commas alone are not strong enough to separate two complete ideas. Here are some examples of run-ons:

Let's go it's getting late.
Whether or not you believe me it's true, I didn't lie to you.

There are five ways to correct run-on sentences:

  1. With a period
  2. With a comma and a coordinating conjunction: and, or, nor, for, so, but, yet
  3. With a semicolon
  4. With a dash
  5. With a subordinating conjunction to create a dependent clause: although, because, during, while, etc.

Here's a run-on sentence corrected with each of these techniques:

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