Independent & Dependent Clauses

Independent clause

An independent clause is also called a main clause. It is a complete sentence, which means it has a subject and a verb. It expresses a complete idea or a complete though.


  • Michael gets a raise.

In the example above, “Michael” is the subject while “gets” is the verb. Do you understand the sentence? Yes, it’s perfectly clear.

Dependent clause

A dependent clause is also called a subordinate clause. It is an incomplete sentence. Although some dependent clauses have a subject and a verb, the sentences do not contain a complete idea. The sentences appear to be “hanging”.


  • Because he works hard.

In the example above, do you understand the sentence?  No, because it doesn’t make sense. You know that something is missing, and the sentence is incomplete or hanging although there is a subject and a verb.

Look at this example.

  • Micheal gets a raise because he works hard.

Now, the whole sentence is meaningful by combining the independent clause with the dependent clause. The sentence could also be written like this without changing its meaning:

  • Because Michael works hard, he gets a raise.

What’s the difference? The difference is, in the second sentence, it begins with a dependent clause, and there is a comma before the independent clause is added.

Other examples:

  • You can help me clean the house since you’re here.
    Since you’re here, you can help me clean the house.
  • Tell me when the plane arrives.
    When the plane arrives, (you) tell me.
  • Peter must turn right after he crosses the road.
    After Peter crosses the road, he must turn right.

IMPORTANT: You have to be careful when you use words like unless, when, after, although, if, whenever, even if and other subordinating conjunctions. These conjunctions are used in dependent clauses, so such clauses cannot stand on their own. They need to be joined with an independent clause. Therefore, it is wrong to write the following sentences:

  1. Get me some vegetables. If you go to the grocery store. (X)
  2. I need a long rest. Because I’ve been working over 12 hours. (X)
  3. We will go out and play. Unless it rains heavily. (X)
  4. There will be trouble. Whenever that kid is in the neighbourhood. (X)

Can you correct the mistakes?


Posted on July 20, 2009, in Sentences and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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