What Is an Independent Clause? (with Examples)
Independent Clause (with Examples)An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone as a sentence (i.e., it expresses a complete thought).
An independent clause, like all clauses, has a subject and verb.
When there are no dependent clauses in the same sentence as an independent clause, the independent clause is a simple sentence. For example:
- I like coconut macaroons. (This is an independent clause and a simple sentence.)
- I like coconut macaroons even though I dislike coconut. (This is an independent clause and a dependent clause. This is an example of a complex sentence.)
Examples of Independent ClausesHere are some examples of independent clauses (shaded). Notice how they could stand alone as sentences. (This is the difference between an independent clause and a dependent clause.)
- Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep. (Fran Lebowitz)
- The best defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off. (Anon)
- I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something. (Jackie Mason)
- Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. (Will Rogers, 1879-1935)
- My one regret in life is that I am not someone else. (Woody Allen)
The Main Types of SentenceBeing able to spot an independent clause and a dependent clause is key to identifying the type of sentence. For example, a sentence with two or more independent clauses is called a compound sentence, and one with an independent clause and at least one dependent clause is called a complex sentence. Here are the basic types of sentence with the independent clauses shaded:
- Lee has been eating pies. (This is a simple sentence.)
- Lee has been eating pies since he woke up. (This is a complex sentence.)
- Lee has been eating pies, and he has been eating cakes. (This is a compound sentence.)
Use a Comma before a Conjunction That Joins Two Independent ClausesWriters are often unsure whether to use a comma before a coordinate conjunction (i.e., a word like and and but). You should use a comma before a coordinate conjunction that joins two independent clauses. For example:
- Toby is smart, and punctual.
- He is smart, and he is punctual. (There is a comma before and because it joins two independent clauses.)
Use a Comma to Show Where Your Independent Clause StartsIf your sentence starts with a dependent clause that is functioning as an adverb (e.g., it provides a time, a place, or a reason for the main clause), then offset it with a comma to show where the independent clause (i.e., the main clause) starts.
- When the game has finished, the king and pawn go in the same box. (Italian Proverb) (Use a comma to mark the end of the dependent clause and to show where the independent clause starts.)
- The king and pawn go in the same box when the game has finished.