Identifying Independent and Dependent Clauses

Practice Exercises

Woman sitting at a desk covered in notebooks and writing
Learn the difference between independent and dependent clauses (Photo: Maskot / Getty Images).

An independent clause (also known as a main clause) is a word group that has both a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence. A dependent clause (also known as a subordinate clause) is a word group that has both a subject and a verb but can't stand alone as a sentence.

A sentence may consist of a single independent clause, multiple independent clauses linked by a conjunction, or a combination of independent and dependent clauses. The key to distinguishing a dependent clause is this: a dependent clause adds information to the independent clause. Perhaps it gives context about time, place, or identity, perhaps it answers "why?" the action in the independent/main clause is happening, perhaps it clarifies something from the main clause. Whatever the case may be, the information contained in that clause is in support of the the main clause.

This exercise will help you recognize the difference between an independent clause and a dependent clause.


For each item below, write independent if the group of words is an independent clause or dependent if the group of words is a dependent clause.

The details in this exercise have been loosely adapted from the essay "Bathing in a Borrowed Suit," by Homer Croy.

  1. ____________________
    I went to the beach last Saturday
  2. ____________________
    I borrowed an old bathing suit from a friend
  3. ____________________
    because I had forgotten to bring my own bathing suit
  4. ____________________
    while the waist on my borrowed suit would have been tight on a doll
  5. ____________________
    my friends were waiting for me to join them
  6. ____________________
    when suddenly they stopped talking and looked away
  7. ____________________
    after some rude boys came up and began to make insulting remarks
  8. ____________________
    I abandoned my friends and ran into the water
  9. ____________________
    my friends invited me to play in the sand with them
  10. ____________________
    although I knew that I had to come out of the water eventually
  11. ____________________
    a large dog chased me down the beach
  12. ____________________
    as soon as I got out of the water


  1. independent
  2. independent
  3. dependent
  4. dependent
  5. independent
  6. dependent
  7. dependent
  8. independent
  9. independent
  10. dependent
  11. independent
  12. dependent
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Identifying Independent and Dependent Clauses." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 28). Identifying Independent and Dependent Clauses. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Identifying Independent and Dependent Clauses." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 1, 2023).