Deciphering between Independent and Dependent clauses

Many writers do not know the deference between independent and dependent clauses and they are forced to have a bunch of short choppy sentences.

Choppy sentences are ones like this:

I couldn’t go to the store.

It was raining.

Nothing is wrong with these simple sentences, but when you have several of them back to back they can make your sentences seem choppy.

These types of sentences can easily be combined with a comma, but you have to be careful not to create a comma splice. For more information on how to use commas or for comma rules, click here.

The above “choppy sentences” can be combined as:

Since it was raining outside, I couldn’t go to the store.

However, before you can combine these sentences and slap a comma between them it is important to know what an independent and dependent clause is and how to determine which part of the sentence is which.

What are independent and dependent clauses?

  • An Independent clause is a sentence that has a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought.
  • Example: Sara went to the store and bought some apples.

    **Note: The subject of the sentence is “Sara” and the verb of the sentence is “went.”

    For more information on how to write a sentence, click here.

  • A dependent clause is a sentence that contains a subject and a verb but does not express a complete thought. These types of sentences are incomplete. Dependent clauses usually have “dependent words” in the sentence. Dependent words are words like: although, as, though, since, even though, because, after, when, while, etc.
  • Example of a dependent clause: While I was making dinner.

    **Note: The subject is “I” and the verb is “making” but the sentence is not complete. The dependent word used is “while.”

    A complete thought is not expressed, so we know this is not a complete sentence.

    Example of a dependent clause used as a complete sentence: While I was making dinner, my husband watched the game.

    **Note: The subject is “I,” the verb is “making” and the dependent word used is “while.” A complete thought is expressed after the comma.

When a dependent clause is at the beginning of a sentence, you know you will need a comma.


You can connect an independent and dependent clause to form a complete sentence using a coordinating conjunction (a comma and a "FANBOYS").

FANBOYS stand for: for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so. After a FANBOY is used a comma is needed. Click here to review the comma rules. Example: I had three weeks to complete my paper, but I didn’t finish it because I was sick.

**Note: the first part of the sentence before the comma is the dependent clause and the part following the comma is the independent clause.

For some practice English grammar exercises, click here.

Be careful when using commas to connect two sentences. You do not want to have a comma splice. For additional information on the comma rules, click here.

Once you know the comma rules and what an independent and dependent clause is, you can use these types of sentences in your writing regularly. Having this knowledge will have you well on your way to being the writing-savvy expert you want to be.

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