Independent and Dependent Clauses

Introducing the Distinction between Subordinate Clauses and Independent Clauses

Identify the following word groups as PHRASE, SUBORDINATE CLAUSE, or INDEPENDENT CLAUSE.

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Please study this lesson before attempting the exercise.

     A clause can also be called a proposition or predication, since it proposes or predicates an idea rather than simply mentioning or referring to an idea. A clause predicates that "the baboon laughs." A phrase, on the other hand, merely mentions "the laughing baboon" or "the baboon's laughter." Both phrases and clauses, then, can relate the ideas of "baboon" and "laughter," but they do so in different ways. This is convenient for encoding and communicating complex ideas, such as "The baboon's laughter frightened the thief." This sentence expresses of two separate concepts: "The baboon laughed; the laughter frightened the thief," but it packages them compactly in the form of a single clause.
    The major idea in any sentence is always expressed in the form of a predication or clause, but phrases provide a means of embedding minor ideas inside major ones. The new lesson this exercise introduces is that human languages provide a second way for sentences to include minor ideas, and that is in the form of subordinate clauses. Thus, if our main idea was not that the thief was frightened by what he heard but that he dropped the loot when he heard the laugh, we could say, "When the baboon laughed, the thief dropped the diamonds down the drain."

    A SUBORDINATE CLAUSE begins with a SUBORDINATE CONJUNCTION (since, because, although, while, as, if, unless, until, the fact that, etc.).

    An INDEPENDENT CLAUSE does not begin with a subordinate conjunction.