Conjunctions and Modifiers Help

Updated on Sep 28, 2011


Independent and Dependent Clauses

A clause contains a subject and a predicate and may also have direct and indirect objects. An independent clause expresses a complete thought; it can stand on its own as a sentence. A dependent clause, on the other hand, cannot stand alone because it expresses an incomplete idea. When a dependent clause stands alone, the result is a sentence fragment.

      Independent clause: She was excited.
      Dependent clause: Because she was excited.

Notice that the dependent clause is incomplete; it needs an additional thought to make a complete sentence, such as:

    She spoke very quickly because she was excited.

The independent clause, however, can stand alone. It is a complete thought.

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     until I met you.
      independent clause                     dependent clause
      After Johnson quit,                   I had to work overtime.
      dependent clause                       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]
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