Clauses that need companionship

By Michael

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Independent clauses can stand on their own, even if they are joined together in one sentence. Subordinate clauses, on the other hand, aren’t supposed to stand on their own. Because they depend on another clause in the sentence, an independent clause. That last sentence, beginning with because, was a subordinate clause that I forced to stand on its own. It would have fallen flat on its face if you hadn’t automatically connected it to the sentence before it.

The word because is an example of the kind of word that often introduces subordinate clauses. The word because answers a question and your reader has to know what the question is, or it won’t make sense.

In informal writing, in conversational writing, you can often get away with putting a period after a subordinate clause, even though it isn’t technically a sentence by itself. In fact, it’s often a good thing to do simply because it makes it sound conversational, as long as our reader understands what the subordinate clause is referring to. In formal writing, however, don’t put a period after anything but a sentence.

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5 Responses to “Clauses that need companionship”

  • Jay Wagers

    This is one part of a lesson I teach when covering sentence fragments, comma splices, and run-ons. (I teach college English.)

    You are correct about the word “because.” It creates more sentence fragments than any other word, with the runner-up probably being “whether,” when used at the beginning of a sentence.

    One very easy method to determine if a sentence fragment exists or not is to put these four words at the beginning of the clause: “Is it true that . . .”

    This will create a question. If the writer can answer the question, it is a sentence. If the question can’t be answered, it is a fragment (subordinate clause).

    Good post. I’m glad I found your site and will visit very often.

  • Daniel

    Jay, thanks for the comment.

    I did not know about the “Is it true that…” check, good one!

  • J2R

    Just a humble suggestion to the author, but I think it would help a lot if you added some examples.

  • Michael

    Sorry, I guess I didn’t make my example obvious enough.

    Edited version:
    “Because they depend on another clause in the sentence.” That last sentence, beginning with because, was a subordinate clause that I forced to stand on its own.

  • Tom

    I agree with the 10-year-old comment below that a few more examples would have been welcome 🙂

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