Identifying Independent and Dependent Clauses

Contributor: Heather Cameron. Lesson ID: 13735

Sentences are made up of clauses. Clauses contain a subject and a verb, but sometimes clauses do not form a complete thought. How do we know? Let’s find out!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Take a look at these song titles:

"Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by the Beatles

"When We Were Young" by Adele

  • What do they all have in common?

All the titles of the songs are called dependent clauses!

  • What is a dependent clause?
  • What even is a clause?

When you hear the word clause, you might think of a cat's nails or the holiday season with Santa.

In this case, we are not talking about cat's paws or claws and Santa or Santa Claus. We are talking about something that you use and something that affects your everyday life -- a clause in your sentences.

  • So what are independent and dependent clauses?

First, let's look at the words independent and dependent.

  • How would describe an independent person?
  • How would you describe a dependent person?

Grab a sheet of paper and fold it in half. On one side, list the qualities of an independent person and list those of a dependent one on the other side.

Your paper may look something like this:


Thoughts and sentences are made of independent and dependent clauses.

Just like you noted in your list, dependent clauses -- like dependent people -- cannot stand alone. They cannot stand alone because they do not form a complete thought.

Independent clauses, on the other hand, can stand alone just like independent people can stand alone. They form a full thought.

Here are some examples of both:

Independent Clauses

She wore pink bunny slippers.

The turtle has a hard shell.

Dependent Clauses

while the clown was juggling bowling pins

even though he ate the broccoli

You should notice how the independent clauses are complete sentences that convey a complete thought. You can read each and understand the whole meaning.

The dependent clauses, however, are not complete sentences. They do not convey a complete thought that can be understood.

Keep going in the Got It? section with some practice activitites.

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