Dependent Clause Definition and Examples

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

In English grammar, a dependent clause is a group of words that has both a subject and a verb but (unlike an independent clause) cannot stand alone as a sentence. Also known as a subordinate clause.

Dependent clauses include adverb clauses, adjective clauses, and noun clauses.

Although exceptions can be found, a dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence is usually followed by a comma (as in this sentence).

However, when a dependent clause appears at the end of a sentence, it's not usually set off with a comma, though again (as in this sentence) there are exceptions.


Examples and Observations

  • "A dependent clause (also called a subordinate clause) is a clause that cannot stand alone because something about it implies that there is more to come. On its own, a dependent clause is left hanging, its meaning incomplete. It must be combined with an independent clause in order to form a complete sentence.

    "One type of dependent clause is essentially an independent clause with a subordinating word tacked on. Specifically, it opens with a conjunction that indicates a dependent relationship with information elsewhere in the sentence."
    (Anne Stilman, Grammatically Correct. Writer's Digest Books, 1997)
  • "My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them."
    (Mitch Hedberg)
  • "When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people."
    (Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, 1955)
  • "Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until the urge passes."
    (attributed to Robert M. Hutchins)
  • "I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught."
    (Winston Churchill, speech to the British House of Commons, 1952)
  • "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new."
    (attributed to Albert Einstein)
  • "Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."
    (attributed to Mark Twain)
  • "If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"
    (attributed to Albert Einstein)
  • "We learn what we have said from those who listen to our speaking."
    (Kenneth Patchen)
  • "I still need the camera because it is the only reason anyone is talking to me."
    (Annie Leibovitz)
  • "It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was."
    (Anne Sexton)

Dependent Clauses Inside Other Dependent Clauses

"There can be levels of complexity within complex sentences. Within a dependent clause, for instance, there can be another dependent clause. For example, in the following sentence there is a main clause . . ., a dependent clause in an adverbial relationship with the main clause (in italics), and a dependent clause [bold italics] in an adverbial relationship with the first dependent clause:

If you want to survive the elements when you go hiking, you should remember to bring along a drink, pocket knife, whistle, map, torch, compass, blanket and food.

(Peter Knapp and Megan Watkins, Genre, Text, Grammar: Technologies for Teaching and Assessing Writing.

University of New South Wales Press, 2005)

Pronunciation: de-PEN-dent claws

Also Known As: subordinate clause

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Dependent Clause Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo, Jan. 1, 2018, Nordquist, Richard. (2018, January 1). Dependent Clause Definition and Examples. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Dependent Clause Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 25, 2018).