Life would be mighty dull if all clauses were independent.
Sally kissed me, and I fainted.
(This is a perfectly correct sentence, but it doesn’t quite tell us everything we need to know.)
Because Sally kissed me, I fainted.
Even though Sally kissed me, I fainted
Sally kissed me after I fainted.
I fainted as Sally kissed me.
(The sentences above clarify the circumstances and sequence because they contain dependent clauses.)
The process of combining main ideas (independent clauses) with secondary ideas (dependent clauses) is called subordination.
There are only three kinds of dependent clauses:
Let’s start with adverb clauses because they are the most common and the easiest to recognize.
If you are new to this whole business, it is nice to know that there are certain words which introduce adverb clauses.
Because English teachers lead boring lives and have nothing better to do, they have dreamed up an impressive, multi-syllabic term that no one can remember to label these words. They are called
If you don’t like that, think of them as dependent signals. A dependent signal is a word that signals a dependent clause.
A whole bunch of words can introduce adverb clauses. A few of the most common are:
even though so that
as as if
There are others, but that will get us started. Remember, the words above are dependent signals that introduce adverb clauses.
Even though English teachers are boring, they still need love and respect.
(The adverb clause is underlined. Note that it is a group of related words with a subject and verb. The dependent signal, “even though” is part of the clause.)
The world would be a better place if more people respected English teachers.
(Again, the adverb clause is underlined. The dependent signal, “if,” is part of the clause.)
If I were you, I would listen to my English teacher because I might learn something of life altering significance.
(This sentence has two adverb clauses. Note that in every instance, the dependent signal begins the clause.)
But sometimes things get a little tricky. Consider these examples:
My English teacher is as ugly as my math teacher.
(Look at the underlined clause. It doesn’t look like a clause does it? There isn’t any verb that you can see. The verb is implied. It is “is.”)
Does this look better?
My English teacher is as ugly as my math teacher [is].
(Sometimes verbs are implied, especially with “than” and “as” phrases. By the way, technically, the dependent signal here is “as. . .as.”)
Let’s try another one:
Independent clauses are as important as quadratic equations and more important than the Pythagorean theorem.
Let’s insert the implied verbs:
Independent clauses are as important as quadratic equations [are] and more important than the Pythagorean theorem [is].
Now we’ve got to get philosophical (sorry!). We’ve got to remember what adverbs do, what questions they answer.
In brief, adverbs answer questions like this.
To what degree?
Under what circumstances?
Since we might not always recognize the dependent signal, we need to know how the clause functions.
I left when the teacher started talking about clauses.
(The adverb clause is underlined. The dependent signal is “when” and the clause answers the question when.)
Students can’t achieve true happiness unless they understand clauses.
(This adverb clause establishes a condition. “Unless” is the dependent signal.)