Independent Clauses (Main Clauses)

When it comes to understanding the basic foundation of written English, we must learn what clauses are. Within English grammar, one concept that stands out prominently is the independent clause, often referred to as the main clause. This tutorial aims to provide you with a comprehensive guide on the topic of independent clauses.

Defining Independent Clauses

An independent clause is a group of words that carries a complete thought and can stand by itself as a sentence. It has both a subject and a predicate. The subject is what the sentence is about, while the predicate tells something about the subject.

Here are a few examples of independent sentences:

  • John plays soccer.
  • The weather is beautiful today.
  • She baked a chocolate cake.

In each of the sentences above, we have a subject (John, weather, she) and a predicate (plays soccer, is beautiful today, baked a chocolate cake). Each sentence expresses a complete thought and, therefore, is an independent clause.

The Structure of Independent Clauses

The independent clause has a particular structure. It consists of the Subject + Verb/Verb Phrase + Optional Complements. Complements are words or groups of words that complete the meaning of the verb. Here are some examples illustrating this structure:

  • She (subject) dances (verb).
  • They (subject) are eating (verb phrase) dinner (complement).

Note that complements are optional. Some sentences can be understood without them.

Independent Clauses and Punctuation

One significant aspect that differentiates independent clauses from other clause types is the punctuation rules applied to them. Here are two principal rules:

1. Separated by a Period or a Semicolon

If you have two independent clauses that can stand as separate sentences but are related in some way, you can separate them using a period or a semicolon.


  • I will go to the store. I need to buy milk.
  • I will go to the store; I need to buy milk.

2. Separated by a Comma and a Coordinating Conjunction

Two independent clauses can be joined into one sentence using a comma and a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).


  • Sarah wanted to see the movie, but she had a lot of homework to do.

Independent Clauses and Conjunctions

Conjunctions are key in understanding and using independent clauses effectively. The three types of conjunctions used with independent clauses are Coordinating Conjunctions, Subordinating Conjunctions, and Conjunctive Adverbs.

1. Coordinating Conjunctions

These conjunctions are used to connect two independent clauses, forming what is known as a compound sentence. Examples include: and, but, or, yet, for, nor, so.


  • Mary likes coffee, but John prefers tea.

2. Subordinating Conjunctions

When a subordinating conjunction is used at the beginning of an independent clause, it turns the clause into a dependent one. Examples include: although, until, unless, because, after, before.


  • Although Mary likes coffee, John prefers tea.

3. Conjunctive Adverbs

These are used to join independent clauses while showing the relationship between them. Examples include: however, therefore, besides, consequently. A semicolon usually precedes them, and a comma follows them.


  • Mary likes coffee; however, John prefers tea.


In conclusion, understanding independent clauses is fundamental in crafting sentences, be they simple, compound, or complex. Once you understand the concepts outlined in this tutorial, you'll be well on your way to writing clear, concise, and grammatically correct English.

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