A dependent clause (or subordinate clause) is one that cannot stand alone as a complete sentence, because it does not express a complete thought.
Like all clauses, a dependent clause has a subject and verb.
Examples of Dependent ClausesHere are some examples of dependent clauses (shaded). Notice how the shaded clauses could not stand alone as sentences. This is how a dependent clause differs from an independent clause.
Types of Dependent ClauseDependent clauses can act as adjectives, adverbs, or nouns.
The Adjective Clause. Here is an example of a dependent clause acting as an adjective:
The Link between a Dependent Clause and an Independent ClauseWhen a dependent clause is used as an adjective or an adverb, it will usually be part of a complex sentence (i.e., a sentence with an independent clause and at least one dependent clause). The link between a dependent clause and an independent clause will often be a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun. For example:
What is a clause?
What is an independent clause?
What are adjective clauses?
What are adverbial clauses?
What are noun clauses?
What is a subordinating conjunction?
What is a relative pronoun?
Glossary of grammatical terms
You cannot start a sentence with who or which unless it is a question (i.e., an interrogative sentence). For example:
Click on the example with a dependent clause: