What is an independent clause?
An independent clause does not require anything else to be considered complete, and so it can stand alone as a sentence. This is known as a simple sentence.
- “I refuse.”
- “The wind blows.”
- “Dogs bark.”
- “Bees sting.”
- “Cats meow.”
In the above examples, the subject begins the sentences and the predicate ends them. The predicate (in each of these cases made up of just a verb) contains all the necessary information about the subject to be considered logical, so each is considered an independent clause.
The predicate of an independent clause can also contain additional information that modifies the verb. For example:
- “I like to stay in fancy hotels.” (prepositional phrase used as an adverb)
- “She wanted to play basketball.” (infinitive phrase used as the direct object of the verb)
In each of the above cases, the independent clause remains able to stand alone as a simple sentence, despite the addition of qualifying information.
Forming sentences with dependent clauses
A dependent clause, on the other hand, relies on the information from an independent clause to form a complete, logical thought. Dependent clauses (also known as subordinate clauses) are usually marked by dependent words, such as a subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns. Here are some examples of dependent clauses:
- “whenever I travel” (subordinating conjunction)
- “whom we met on the plane” (relative pronoun)
We can see that the clauses above do not express a complete idea—they require independent clauses to be logically complete:
- “Whenever I travel, I like to stay in fancy hotels.”
- “We struck up a great conversation with a person whom we met on the plane.”
An independent clause that contains or is connected to at least one dependent clause, as we see in the above two examples, forms what is known as a complex sentence.
Forming sentences with multiple independent clauses
A sentence formed by two independent clauses is known as a compound sentence. For example:
- “She wanted to play tennis, but he wanted to play basketball.”
If at least one of those independent clauses contains a dependent clause, then the sentence is considered a compound-complex sentence, as in:
- “Because I love to read, I like to visit the library, and I enjoy going to book stores, too.”