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Independent and dependent Clauses | Video lesson

Watch David explain the difference between independent and dependent clauses, as well as the various types of dependent clauses.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] I would like, if I may, to talk about the clause. Specifically, the purpose of this video is to talk about the distinction between the dependent and the independent clause. But before we get to that, first a definition. A clause is the shortest possible proposition in grammar, right. So like, I cooked clams. You've got your subject here, which is I. You've got a verb, which is cooked. So S, V, and then we've got this object here which isn't necessary for a clause. You could really just say, "I cooked," and that would be a sentence. And that's all that's required for a clause. You've got your subject and then you've got this part, which is called the predicate. But really we can just say subject and verb. Those are the core requirements for a clause. So now that we know what a clause is, it's just subject and a verb, we have a distinction between independent and dependent clauses. An independent clause can stand on its own as a sentence. A dependent clause cannot. There are a number of ways that we can make this happen, let me show you. So if we take our initial sentence, I cooked clams, that's an independent clause. It can stand on its own as a sentence. It's got a subject, it's got a verb. Nothing is standing in the way of it being perceived as its own sentence, an independent clause, and not a sentence fragment. Now I'm going to add another clause to the beginning of that sentence. Since they were in season, I cooked clams. Now, I've written this in yellow because since they were in season is a dependent clause. I'll give you another example. Because I love them, I cooked clams. Same deal. Now if there were no I cooked clams, let me just erase that, these two yellow sentences here since they were in season and because I love them would not be grammatical sentences on their own. These are what we would call sentence fragments. And why is that? It's because of since and because. These words are called subordinating conjunctions. And what they do is they make the clauses that they're attached to subordinate, beneath, reliant upon, leaning on an independent clause. So these can't be sentences on their own because of words like since and because. So I'm gonna add those, add the clams back into our sentence pot. Because look, if we took out the words since and because, then we would have two independent clauses. They were in season, I cooked clams. I love them, I cooked clams. Now this creates a new kind of error. And that one I'll write down. So this here is called a comma splice. Because now, if we take out the because part. In fact, let me just rewrite them in blue to show that they're independent clauses. So we'll get rid of since and say they were in season, I cooked clams. So we've got our independent clause here, we've got our independent clause here, and we've got this comma here. And that is a comma splice. I love them, comma, so I cooked clams. We've got our independent clause here, we've got our independent clause here, and we've got our comma splice there. So you can't connect two independent clauses with a comma. There are a couple things we can do to fix this. So one of the things we can do is replace the comma with a semicolon. They were in season, semicolon, I cooked clams. However, the most popular way to do it is to insert what's called a coordinating conjunction in between. So you've got the comma, which is the opposite of a subordinating conjunction. So they were in season, comma, so I cooked clams. I love them, comma, so I cooked clams. The coordinating conjunctions of English are the only way to connect two independent clauses to one another. So it's a comma plus a coordinating conjunction to combine two independent clauses. This sounds like a lot to remember, how do you keep all these coordinating and subordinating conjunctions straight? And it's true, there's a whole bunch of subordinating conjunctions. Fortunately for us though, there are only seven coordinating conjunctions in English. And I like to keep them straight using the FANBOYS pneumonic. That's For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So. And these are the coordinating conjunctions of English. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, that's all you need to remember is just FANBOYS. All right, so let's recap. Independent clauses can be sentences. Independent clauses can be joined with commas and coordinating conjunctions, or they can be joined by semicolons. And joined to one another, that's very important. Independent clauses can be joined to other independent clauses with a comma and a coordinating conjunction. Whereas dependent clauses cannot be sentences, can begin with subordinating conjunctions like because or since. Basically any kind of conjunction that is not a coordinating conjunction is a subordinating conjunction. It makes a clause dependent. There are other kinds of dependent clauses also, not just ones that begin with subordinating conjunctions. Dependent clauses can also be relative and nominative clauses. And I'll explain what those are right now. A relative clause is a clause that pretty much occurs in the middle of a sentence. The clams that you cooked were spectacular. So I've highlighted in yellow this relative dependent clause. Because what this is doing, what the that is doing is this entire clause is modifying clams, right? You is the subject, cooked is the verb, that is the object. And it's all referring back to clams. And because of the that, because it's referring back to a different part of the sentence, that you cooked is not an independent clause. It would not be a sentence on its own. A nominative clause doesn't use a relative adverb like that or when, but instead uses an entire clause to stand in as the subject of a sentence. So, whoever cooked these clams deserves a medal. Right, we have whoever, that's our subject, cooked, that's our verb, but all of this is serving as the subject for the verb deserves. Right, you can see that whoever cooked these clams isn't a sentence. Like whoever cooked these clams, what? The way we've constructed these clauses, because they're dependent clauses, they need to lean on other parts of the sentence in order to function as sentences. So the nominative clause forms a subject for this broader sentence, which therefore creates an independent clause. So that's a starter primer on the difference between independent and dependent clauses. Just remember that an independent clause can be a sentence, and a dependent clause cannot be.