Independent clauses are the base of the sentence, and to keep from confusing things, I’ve separated the concept of the independent clause and the sentences it can build into two different posts.
This post on independent clauses explores its anatomy, a quick reference (with links) to sentence structure, joining independent clauses, flipping an independent clause on its head and into a dependent clause, and the dreaded comma splice.
Grammar Explanations is…
…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… Are there areas of grammar with which you struggle? If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page and consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.
|Credit to: Capital Community College|
|Definition: An independent clause is a complete sentence with a subject and a predicate (a.k.a., verb).
See Sentences for more on the types of independent clauses.
Independent clauses can be joined in a variety of ways to make longer, more complex sentences. Do be aware that using a variety of sentence lengths and different sentence structures makes for a more inviting story for your readers, providing them with variety.
A.k.a., sentence, main clause, complete sentence
|Anatomy of an Independent Clause: Subject + Predicate|
|General Definition: Usually a noun that comes first, it is the doer of the sentence. See the post, “Predicate“, for more examples.
Doer is also known as agent.
|General Definition: Usually a verb, the predicate usually comes after the subject and is the action performed by the subject of the sentence. See the post, “Predicate“, for more examples.
Rule: The predicate must agree with the subject in number and person.
The ball rolled down the street.
The flowers will be blooming soon.
Helen got married last week.
It is snowing up a storm.
The game was cancelled due to the tornado.
I love the glass pyramid I.M. Pei designed for the Louvre.
|Types of Independent Clauses|
|A sentence is structured according to the number and type of clauses they have.
Explore these structures in the post on “The Sentence“.
|3 Ways to Join Independent Clauses|
|There are three ways to join independent clauses:|
|Coordination||Definition: Coordination joins independent clauses with one of the coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, for, yet, and sometimes* so. Such clauses should be fairly equal in length and balanced.|
We all looked worse than usual, for we had stayed up studying for the exam.
This room is unbelievably hot, and I think that I am going to pass out.
Monday is a difficult day for me, so I try to prepare as much as possible on Sunday.
I like wearing this helmet, and it totally accents my pumps.
|Semicolon Alone||General Rule: A semicolon is most commonly used to link two independent clauses that are closely related in thought in a single sentence.
Rule: When there is no coordinating conjunction, join two independent clauses with a semicolon.
We all looked worse than usual; we had stayed up all night studying for the exam.
This room is unbelievably hot; I think I am going to pass out.
Monday is a difficult day for me; I have three classes and two other commitments.
|Semicolon + Conjunctive Adverb||General Rule: A semicolon is most commonly used to link two independent clauses that are closely related in thought in a single sentence.
Rule: When using a conjunctive adverb, join two independent clauses with a semicolon, the adverb (or transitional phrase), and a comma.
We all looked worse than usual; however, we were relieved we had studied.
The discussion is really interesting; nevertheless, I think I am going to pass out.
Monday is a difficult day for me; however, I have figured out how to prepare for it.
But however they choose to write, people are allowed to make their own decisions; as a result, many people swear by their writing methods.
Designs three through five have some flaws in their stability; and yet, the design for the new dual-layer bridge in four has some merit.
|Turn an Independent Clause into a Dependent/Subordinate Clause|
|Rule: An independent clause becomes a dependent clause when the clause begins with a dependent marker word.|
She is older than her brother.
Because she is older than her brother, she tells him what to do.
The clocks runs fast.
Assuming that the clock runs fast, we still have half an hour before we need to leave.
|To Comma Splice, or Better, To NOT Comma Splice|
|Rule: Do NOT even think about connecting two independent clauses with a comma alone! Either use a comma + conjunction, a semicolon, a transitional phrase, a semicolon conjunctive adverb comma, or a dependent marker.|
|Bad, Bad, Bad — the Comma Splice||Fix It!!|
|Bob didn’t mean to do it, he did it anyway.||, conjunction
Bob didn’t mean to do it, but he did it anyway.
; transitional phrase ,