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Independent and Dependent Clause Study Guide

When you want to use commas and semicolons in sentences and when you are concerned about whether a sentence is or is not a fragment, a good way to start is to be able to recognize dependent and independent clauses.

Let's start with some easy definitions for these terms:

Independent Clause

An independent clause is a group of words that contains three necessary parts

  • subject
  • verb
  • a complete thought

An independent clause is the formal name for a complete sentence. (They are independent because they can stand on their own!)

Example: Jevar saved his money for a vacation.

(subject) (verb)

Dependent Clause

A dependent clause is a group of words that contain a subject and verb, but are NOT complete thoughts. Dependent clauses are NOT complete sentences. (They are dependent because they cannot stand on their own!)

Very often a dependent clause will come with a dependent marker, which is your biggest clue that you are dealing with a dependent clause.

Some common dependent markers are: after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order to, since, though, unless, until, whatever, when, whenever, whether, and while. The formal name for these words are subordinate conjunctions.

Example: Because Jevar saved his money for a vacation, he was able to take the trip of his dreams.

How can you connect these clauses?!

There are a few specific rules you need to remember when connecting your clauses.

1) To connect Dependent + Independent clauses, you have only one option...

the comma!

Example: If I pack my lunch each day, I can save a lot of money each month.

_______________(Dependent)____________ ^ ________________(Independent)________

Example: I'm beginning to see how to master commas, even though it is not all crystal clear yet.

___________________(Independent)_________________________ ^ __________ (Dependent)____

2) To connect Independent clause + Independent clause, you have 3 options

a) Period. You can always separate the 2 clauses with a period, as they are both complete sentences.

b) Semi-colon ; Use this option when your SECOND independent clause adds information to, or clarifies your first clause.

Example: I'm so glad I chose to continue with my higher education; it is already taking me to some amazing new heights.

c) AND + Conjunction Use this option when you want to call on the help of a coordination conjunction.

Example: Marge was late for work, so she received a cut in pay.

Here are your coordinating conjunctions to choose from: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so ("FANBOY")

TIP: You have 3 options for ways to connect your independent clauses in order to make YOUR sentence have the clearest possible meaning that you intend.


Proceed to the enclosed practice worksheet to practice these skills.

You may also find exercises for connecting clauses at these websites:

Dependent and Independent Clauses

Independent Clause Exercise

Clause Practice

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