Understanding Clauses and Avoiding Sentence Fragments

An independent clause has two characteristics:

  • it contains a subject and a verb.
  • it can stand alone as a sentence.

For example,

  • I slept all night" is a complete sentence: I is the subject,
    slept
    is the verb,
    and it expresses a complete thought, i.e. can stand alone.
  • "The snow falling and school being canceled" is NOT
    a complete sentence. It cannot stand alone--
    "falling" and "being" are participles and cannot function as verbs.
    To complete the sentence, create verbs:
    • The snow fell and school was canceled.
    • The snow falling and school being canceled, I stayed home.
  • "When the snow falls from the heavy clouds moving quickly from the west"
    is NOT a complete sentence. It cannot stand alone--
    "When" makes this a dependent clause.

Note: Independent clauses can begin with connecting words such as
and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet, therefore, thus, consequently.

Dependent clauses cannot stand alone; they need an independent clause to
complete the meaning:

  • Adjective dependent clauses begin with a relative pronoun
    (who, which, that, whom, whose)
    • The day began with a fierce rainstorm, which was forecasted earlier.
      NOT The day began with a fierce rainstorm. Which was forecasted earlier.
  • Adverb dependent clauses begin with an adverbial conjunction
    (after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if, even though, if, since,
    though, unless, until, what, whatever, when, whenever, whether, while)
    • He refused to let his father drive him to school until his father got a new car.
      NOT He refused to let his father drive him to school. Until his father got a new car.

Note: A sentence fragment occurs when a dependent clause is not attached to an independent clause. To avoid sentence fragments, it is important to be able to identify dependent and independent clauses.

Gain extra practice using the StudyMate activities below.

Set 1


Last Updated: 8/29/13