If you want to improve your English, learning about dependent clauses is a must. Dependent clauses add depth and nuance to your sentences, but they can also be tricky to use correctly. In this reference, we’ll explore what dependent clauses are, how to find them, and how to use them effectively in your writing.
Basic Structure of a Sentence
Before we dive into dependent clauses, let’s review the basic structure of a sentence. A sentence typically consists of a subject, a verb, and an object.
For example, “The cat (subject) chased (verb) the mouse (object).”
This is a simple sentence, but sentences can become more complex by adding additional words and phrases.
What is a dependent clause?
A dependent clause, often referred to as a subordinate clause, is a set of words that include a subject and a verb but cannot be a sentence on its own. Dependent clauses are dependent on the rest of the sentence to make sense. For example, “After I finish my work” is a dependent clause because it cannot stand alone as a sentence.
What makes a clause dependent?
A clause is dependent when it relies on another clause to form a complete sentence. Dependent clauses are introduced by subordinating conjunctions such as “after,” “although,” “because,” “before,” “if,” “since,” “unless,” “until,” “when,” and “while.” These conjunctions signal that the clause is dependent on the rest of the sentence.
Common types of dependent clauses
There are several types of dependent clauses, including adverbial clauses, adjective clauses, and noun clauses.
Adverbial clauses modify the verb in the independent clause by answering questions such as “when,” “where,” “why,” “how,” and “under what circumstances.” For example, “After I finish my work, I will go for a run.” In this sentence, the adverbial clause “after I finish my work” modifies the verb “will go.”
Adjective clauses modify a noun in the independent clause by providing additional information about the noun. For example, “The book that I read last night was really interesting.” In this sentence, the adjective clause “that I read last night” modifies the noun “book.”
Noun clauses act as a noun in the sentence by functioning as the subject, object, or complement. For example, “I don’t know what to do.” In this sentence, the noun clause “what to do” acts as the object of the verb “know.”
Dependent clause examples
You can make all kinds of sentences with dependent clauses:
- Although it was raining, I went for a walk.
- The dog that barked at me scared me.
- I will go to the party if I finish my work.
In each of these examples, our dependent clause cannot stand alone as a sentence and is dependent on the rest of the sentence to make sense.
How to identify a dependent clause
To identify a dependent clause, look for a subordinating conjunction and a subject and verb that cannot stand alone as a sentence. Ask yourself if the clause can stand alone as a sentence. If not, it is likely a dependent clause.
One mistake you should avoid is placing a comma between two independent clauses. For example, “I went to the store, I bought some milk.” This is a comma splice and should be corrected by adding a conjunction or separating the clauses into two sentences.
In addition, never try to use a dependent clause as a complete sentence. For example, “Although it was raining.” This is not a complete sentence and should be added to an independent clause to form a proper sentence.
Dependent clauses are an important tool for adding complexity and nuance to your writing. By understanding what dependent clauses are, how to identify them, and how to use them effectively, you can take your English skills to the next level. With practice, you’ll become a master of complex sentence structures and be able to communicate more effectively than ever before!