A dependent clause is also called a subordinate clause is a group of words that forms part of a sentence. It has a subject and a verb, but does not express a complete thought, making it a dependent clause that cannot stand independently as a complete sentence. The dependent/subordinate clause is joined to an independent clause or main clause, to which it adds more information. Together, they form a complete sentence. Each subordinate clause begins with a subordinate conjunction such as because, since, unless, and even though. Most subordinate clauses are adverbial clauses. It is this subordinate conjunction that makes a dependent clause subordinate to the independent clause.               

When a subordinate clause is one of two clauses in a sentence, the other clause has to be the main clause as a sentence cannot have two subordinate clauses. The subordinate clause usually comes after the main clause. However, it can come in front of the main clause to draw attention to its content before the main clause. The third position that a subordinate clause can take in a sentence is in the middle.

It will be noticed that commas are used when the subordinate clause comes at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence. A comma is used after a subordinate clause when the subordinate clause is followed by the main clause, while a comma is used before and after the subordinate clause when the clause is in the middle of the sentence. When the main clause is followed by the subordinate clause, no comma is used.

Each of the following example sentences shows a subordinate clause (boldfaced) that is joined to a main clause. Both clauses together form a complete sentence. 

Examples:

  • When it got hotter, all of us sat beneath a shady tree.
  • Before he kept a mongoose as a pet, he didn’t know it had a long body.
  • My uncle who has a long beard is now thinking of shaving it off. 
  • His dog, although a big one, is frightened of smaller dogs.
  • Everyone says that you are my best friend.
  • They wrestled each other because they couldn’t think of something else to do.

 

The dependent clause comes in different forms as follow:
Adverbial Clause – An adverb clause or adverbial clause functions as an adverb. It modifies a verb.
Noun Clause – A noun clause functions like a noun. It can be a subject or an object.
Relative clause or Adjective Clause – A relative clause or adjective clause modifies a noun.