A clause is also a group of words, but it differs from a phrase in that it has its own subject and verb. Therefore, some clauses function as sentences, either independently or within a larger sentence. One sentence might contain, or even be entirely composed of, as many as three or more clauses. The sentence would be a combination of two possible kinds of clauses, independent and subordinate.
Tip: Too many simple sentences can make your conversation or writing choppy and dull. Increase listener/reader interest by adding a few clauses that supply new facts or vivid descriptions.
Sometimes referred to as a main clause, an independent clause can stand alone as a simple sentence.
You have a nice smile.
It lights up your eyes.
With the help of a semicolon or a coordinating conjunction, we can join these two independent clauses to form a single sentence.
You have a nice smile; it lights up your eyes.
You have a nice smile, and it lights up your eyes.
Don't confuse the comma with the semicolon. Joining the two clauses with a comma instead of a semicolon would result in what is called a comma splice.
I looked for my lost address book, but I could not find it.
Charlotte watered the tree every day, for it was new.
Hans wanted to learn to play golf, so he took lessons.
As mentioned before, some sentences may contain as many as three or more independent clauses.
I looked for my lost address book, but I could not find it, so I decided to start a new one; I knew it would be useful.
A subordinate clause, or dependent clause, also contains a subject and verb, but it cannot stand alone as a simple sentence. It depends on another clause in the sentence to help it do its job. Subordinate clauses look like independent clauses but they can begin with subordinating conjunctions.
before I knew it
so I don't forget it
whenever you're in town
Subordinate clauses can also begin with relative pronouns.
whom I saw earlier
whose name I forget
whichever comes first
When attaching a subordinate clause to the front of a main, or independent, clause, it is necessary to use a comma between the two clauses.
Before I knew it, I was being lambasted by the angry sergeant for my comment.
When attaching a clause to the end of a main clause, no comma is needed.
Put your name and number on the card so I don't forget it.
Subordinate clauses can function as three different parts of speech: a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.
We know that nouns can play many roles. They can be subjects, predicate nominatives, direct objects, appositives, indirect objects, or objects of prepositions. Some words that begin noun clauses are question-starters like who, what, where, when, why, how, as well as the words that, whether, whom, whoever, and whomever.
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