Dependent Clauses for intermediate learners

Dependent clauses are clauses that cannot form sentences on their own. In this lesson, we will learn all about dependent clauses.

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What Are Dependent Clauses in English?

What Are Dependent Clauses?

In English, there are two types of clauses. Dependent clauses, also known as subordinate clauses, are groups of words that contain a subject and a verb but do not express a complete thought on their own. They depend on an independent clause to form a complete sentence.

Dependent Clauses: Types

There are two types of dependent clauses in English:

Now, let us analyze each:

Finite Clauses

A finite dependent clause contains a subject and a finite verb, which means it is marked for tense, number, and person. Finite dependent clauses can function as adverbs, adjectives, or nouns within a sentence. A common type of finite dependent clause is a subordinate clause.

Subordinate Clauses

As the name suggests, subordinate clauses depend on an independent clause to be meaningful and complete. They cannot stand alone as complete sentences. Subordinate clauses begin with subordinating conjunctions. Below is a list of them:

Now, Take a look at some examples:

Wherever you go, there is always a problem.

As you can see, the first clause is dependent and incomplete.

This is going to be ours, until we are able to afford a better one.

Even though Chris was sad, he agreed to join us in the club.

Non-finite Clauses

Non-finite clauses are dependent clauses that do not have a finite verb, which means they are not marked for tense, number, or person. Non-finite clauses are formed using non-finite verb forms, and they can be categorized into two main types:

Now, let us analyze each:

Infinitives

An infinitive clause is formed using the base form of the verb, preceded by the word 'to'. Infinitive clauses do not have a meaning on their own and need an independent clause in order to be complete. They can function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs within a sentence. Look at the following examples:

They didn't know how to use their cards.

As you can see, the infinitive clause is incomplete on its own.

To eat fast food everyday doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

Participle Clauses

There are two main types of participles: past and present participles. Participle clauses that begin with both these types are non-finite clauses and can function as adjectives within a sentence. As dependent clauses, they need to be followed by an independent clause to be complete. Look at the following examples:

Running late for the meeting, Sarah grabbed her bag and headed out the door.

A present participle clause

I saw a duck sleeping on the bench.

A present participle clause

Torn into a thousand pieces, she sat there and cried.

A past participle clause

Johnny, scared and confused, hid behind his mother.

A past participle clause

Position in a Sentence

As long as they are followed by an independent clause, dependent clauses can come at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the sentences. Look below:

Because he was feeling sick, he decided to stay home.

Here, the sentence begins with a subordinate clause.

Rita called to say what had happened.

In this example, an infinitive clause appears at the end of the sentence.

My boyfriend, sitting on the blue couch, is staring at me.

Here, a participle clause is placed in the middle of the sentence.

Punctuation Rules

When the dependent clause appears at the beginning of the sentence, it must be followed by a comma . Also, when the dependent clause is in the middle of the sentence, it must be placed between two commas. Pay attention to the examples:

The tall girl, talking to that stranger, is my friend.

As you can see, the participle clause is placed between two commas.

Although it was late, we decided to go for a walk.

Here, we have a comma after the subordinate clause.

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