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Clauses are groups of words that convey an idea or a proposition. They include a subject and a verb.


I am happy.
When I get home …
… because he told me to.

Not a clause

A big house (no verb)
The man who … (no verb)
… wrote a letter. (no subject)

There are two main types of clauses:

Independent Clauses (Main Clauses)

Independent clauses, or main clauses, can stand alone as complete sentences. Sometimes an independent clause is combined with a dependent clause to create a complex sentence.

Marker words

Some independent clauses start with . A clause must be independent if it starts with one of the following words:

  • also
  • consequently
  • furthermore
  • however
  • moreover
  • nevertheless
  • therefore

His car was broken; therefore, he had to take the bus.
It was raining all day. Nevertheless, we went for a walk.
The train was late; consequently, I was late for my meeting.

Coordinating conjunctions

If you combine two independent clauses into one sentence you will need to use a coordinating conjunction: for, and, nor, but, or, yet or so. This is not the only time a coordinating conjunction is used. Note that a comma is required when you combine two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction.

I think he’s nice, and he thinks I’m lazy.
It’s mid afternoon, yet the sun is already setting.
He bought me a gift, so I should buy him one too.

Dependent Clauses (Subordinate Clauses)

Dependent clauses, or subordinate clauses, are parts of a sentence that give additional information. They support the meaning of an independent clause and cannot stand alone as a sentence.

Subordinating conjunctions

Dependent clauses often start with one of the following words, which are called subordinating conjunctions:
  • after
  • although
  • as
  • as if
  • because
  • before
  • even if
  • even though
  • if
  • in order to
  • once
  • since
  • though
  • unless
  • until
  • whatever
  • when
  • whenever
  • whether
  • while

Before I go home, I will stop at the supermarket.
If you call after 10:00pm, I will not answer the phone.
He won’t fix your bike unless you ask him.
I have to rest in order to be ready for tomorrow.