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Sentences and Style

Learn about English sentence rules and style suggestions to help you become a more confident writer

Clauses

Sentences are made up of various combinations of independent and dependent clauses, and non-essential words, phrases and clauses. Each clause type is explained below.

Independent

An independent clause "is a group of words that contains a subject and verb and expresses a complete thought. An independent clause is a sentence" (Purdue University, n.d., para. 1). For example, "I like to eat ice cream" is an independent clause. The clause could exist on its own as a sentence and contains a subject and a verb.

For more information on independent clauses, including how to punctuate them, please view the Commas, Semicolons, and Colons video.

Reference

Purdue University. (n.d.). Identifying independent and dependent clauses. Purdue Online Writing Lab. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/punctuation/independent_and_d...

Dependent

"A dependent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and verb but does not express a complete thought. A dependent clause cannot be a sentence. Often a dependent clause is marked by a dependent marker word" (Purdue University, n.d., para. 2). For example: "When I left the room..."; more information is required to make this a complete thought.

Dependent marker words

A dependent marker word is "a word added to the beginning of an independent clause that makes it into a dependent clause" (Purdue University, n.d., para. 4). Common dependent marker words include: although, in order to, since, though, unless, until, when, and while.

For more information regarding dependent clauses, dependent marker words, punctuating dependent clauses, and joining dependent clauses with independent clauses, please view the Commas, Semicolons, and Colons video.

Reference

Purdue University. (n.d.). Identifying independent and dependent clauses. Purdue Online Writing Lab. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/punctuation/independent_and_d...

Non-essential elements

Non-essential words, clauses, or phrases provide extra information within a sentence. If you remove the non-essential word, clause or phrase, the meaning of the sentence remains intact.

For example:

  • I think, however, that you should reconsider your answer. (word)
  • The cat, though scared, stood his ground versus the growling dog. (clause)
  • The dog, who is quite old, still chased the cat around the yard. (phrase)

For more information regarding non-essential elements, including how to punctuate them with commas, please view the Commas, Semicolons, and Colons video.