What Are Dependent Clauses?
Dependent Clauses (also called subordinate or embedded clauses) are clauses that have a subject and a verb but cannot express a complete thought. Therefore, they need another clause to imply a meaningful idea. Dependent clauses are not used on their own, but can function as adjectives or adverbs within a sentence.
Dependent Clauses: Types
We can categorize dependent clauses into two main groups, each of which has different subcategories:
Finite Dependent Clauses
Finite dependent clauses contain a subject and a conjugated verb, and they can function as adjectives, adverbs, or nouns within a sentence. They cannot function as a complete predicate because they require an independent clause to form a complete sentence. We have three types of finite dependent clauses:
Subordinate dependent clauses are groups of words that contain a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. They depend on an independent clauses to make sense and convey a complete thought.
Subordinating Clauses: Form
Subordinate Clauses begin with subordinating conjunctions, such as:
Subordinate Clauses: Function
Subordinate dependent clauses can function as nouns, adverbs or adjectives within a sentence. They provide additional information, describe something, or show the relationship between ideas. Take a look at some examples:
The streets were flooded
In this sentence, 'because of all the rain' functions as an adverb of reason.
In this sentence, 'where I grew up' functions as an adjective which modifies the noun 'house'.
Here, 'if I wanted to go to the movies' is a subordinate clause that functions as a noun.
Relative Clauses: Form
Relative clauses are introduced by a relative pronoun, a relative adverb, or a relative determiner, such as:
Relative Clauses: Function
Relative clauses mainly function as adjectives within the sentence, modifying and providing more information about a noun, a pronoun, or a noun phrase that comes before them in the sentence.
This is my father
A "that-clause" is a type of dependent clause in English grammar that starts with the word "that." It functions as a single unit within a sentence and typically serves one of several purposes, such as:
- Direct object: It can serve as the direct object of a verb, typically expressing what someone believes, thinks, says, or knows. For example:
- Complement: It can function as a complement to an adjective, a noun or a subject, providing additional information or description. For example:
His goal is
She was certain
The scientist's claim
- Subject: A "that-clause" can serve as the subject of a sentence or clause, and it often expresses an idea, statement, or action. When it functions as the subject, it typically introduces the main topic or subject matter of the sentence. For example:
An expletive clause is a type of clause that begins with the words "it" or "there" and serve as a placeholder for the subject of the sentence. Expletive clauses are also called "dummy clauses" because they do not add any meaning to the sentence, but rather simply provide a grammatical structure. Expletive clauses are commonly used in English to create emphasis, introduce a topic, or shift the focus of the sentence. For example:
As you can see, the word "it" is acting as a placeholder for the subject of the sentence.
Non-finite Dependent Clauses
A non-finite clause is a type of dependent or embedded clause that does not have a specific tense. This means that it does not indicate whether the action or state described in the clause occurs before, during, or after the time of speaking. There are two main types of non-finite dependent clauses in English:
An infinitive clause is a type of dependent clause that does not have a grammatical subject, and therefore, the verb is not conjugated.
Infinitive Clauses: Form
There are two types of infinitive clauses based on the presence or absence of the preposition 'to' before the infinitive verb:
To-infinitive clauses can serve as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs within a sentence. Pay attention to the examples:
I have decided
nominal, object of the sentence
nominal, subject of the sentence
I need a pen
adjectival, modifying the noun 'pen'
adverbial, telling about the reason of the action of the verb
Bare Infinitives: Functions
Bare infinitive clauses can only function as nouns and therefore can be used as objects in the sentence. Look at some examples:
He made me
Participle clauses are subordinate, non-finite clauses that begin with a participle. They are used to reduce the length or complexity of a sentence or structure.
Participle Clauses: Form
There are different types of participles and accordingly, different types of participle clauses, including:
Present Participle Clauses: Functions
Present participle clauses begin with a present participle and can act as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Pay attention to the examples:
present participle clause as a noun (gerund)
Look at those old men
present participle clause as an adjective
present participle clause as an adverb
Past Participle Clauses: Functions
Past participle clauses begin with a past participle and they act as adjectives or adverbs. Take a look at the examples:
past participle clause as an adverb
I was left with my heart
past participle clause as an adjective
Perfect Participle Clauses: Functions
Perfect participle clauses begin with have + a past participle and they act as adjectives and adverbs. For example:
perfect participle clause as an adverb of reason
The broken vase,
perfect participle clause as an adjective modifying the noun 'vase'.
Position in a Sentence
As you can see, based on the context, dependent clauses can be used at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence. For example:
She entered the class,
If the dependent clause comes at the beginning of the sentence, it is followed by a comma; but when the independent clause comes first and the dependent clause is at the end of the sentence, there is no need for a comma.
Non-restrictive dependent clauses that appear in the middle of the sentence are put between two commas. Check out the examples:
Make sure you switched off the lights
- What Are Dependent Clauses?
- Dependent Clauses: Types
- Punctuation Rules
You might also like
A clause is a group of words that has a subject and a predicate. In this lesson, we will discuss clauses in English grammar.
Relative clauses give us more information about people and things. They are used to combine clauses and avoid repetition. Click here to learn!
Nominal Relative Clauses
Nominal relative clauses are used as different parts of speeches and act as a noun or a noun phrase. Click here to learn more!
Independent clauses can stay alone and they are used as a whole meaningful sentence. In this lesson, we will learn about them.
Restrictive and Non-restrictive Clauses
Restrictive clauses and phrases are necessary while non-restrictive clauses are not necessary for the sentence to have a meaningful thought.