Clauses: Dependent

The dependent clause includes a subject and a verb.

The dependent clause is the subordinate idea of the sentence. It is dependent on another clause for meaning and context.

Many dependent clauses, when removed from the context of the sentence, make sense on their own. Nonetheless, they are dependent on the rest of the sentence for meaning and should not be evaluated outside of the sentence.

Dependent clauses function as a part of speech in relation to the independent clause.

[In the following examples, the subjects and verbs are bold and the entire dependent clause is underlined.]

Subordinate clause as an adverb clause.

  • He is the first president to serve when the popular culture had merged with politics in a celebrity-obsessed culture.

The subordinate clause, introduced by the subordinate conjunction WHEN, answers the question when about the independent clause.

  • The recession was over for a year and a half before Clinton took office.

The subordinate clause answers the question when about the independent clause.

  • Clinton was criticized for failing to push negotiating authority for trade agreements because he didn’t want to alienate organized labor.

The subordinate clause tells why or the condition under which the independent occurred.

Subordinate clause as a noun clause.

  • Many prominent Democrats concede that catalog contained enough truth to mean the party had to change.

The subordinate clause tells us what the Democrats concede. It is a direct object.

  • James Carville said he considers it the low point of the Clinton presidency.

The subordinate clause tells us what the James Carville said. The subordinating conjunction THAT is implied.

Subordinate clause as an adjective clause.

  • The announcers claimed this was the product we could all count on.

The subordinate clause tells us what kind of product it is.

  • This is the plan until the captain arrives with a better one.

The subordinate clause describes the plan.

NOTE: Usually comma is NOT needed before a subordinating conjunction if the dependent clause follows the independent clause.

A relative pronoun may act as a connector between the independent and dependent clause

[In the following examples, the subject and verb of the dependent clause are bold and the dependent clause is underlined.]

  • He wasn’t helped tonight by game-time temperatures of 51 degreesand a chilling wind that had Mussina blowing into his hand for warmth between pitches.

THAT is a relative pronoun and acts as the subject of the dependentclause modifying the WIND.

  • The next five years are the critical period, which includes many of the states with the hardest exams putting their requirementsinto effect.

The subject of the dependent clause in this type of sentence is a relative pronoun that relates to the noun preceding it.

  • Where will you find the person who will take the director’s place?

In question form, the subject and verb do not follow the standardsubject, verb, complement order. YOU is the subject of the independent clause. WHO is the subject of the dependent clause.

  • Have you considered hiring Josh, who received several awards for excellence in design last year?

The subject of the dependent clause in this type of sentence may or may not be separated from the main clause by a comma.

NOTE: Dependent clauses that begin with relative pronouns are adjective clauses. If they are surrounded by commas, they are non-restrictive clauses. If they are not surrounded by commas, they are restrictive clauses.

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  1. says

    I teach 8th grade Language Arts. I have admired your website for years and would love to use it without having to alter it for middle school. Have you considered using state or national ELA standards for each grade level to break down the steps of learning grammar? For instance, looking at direct and indirect objects: middle schools are taught to look for signal words to indicate dependent clauses. Your dependent clauses use application of prior knowledge- how the clause is functioning in the sentence. Can you show some basic types of dependent clauses to build up to identifying the more subtle dependent clauses that we could use in the classroom to discuss first? Your site is helpful to me as a teacher, but too advanced for on level middle schoolers beyond identifying parts of speech- because it’s all application- and I need help, developmentally speaking, with the basics, in my 8th grade classes.

  2. Ms.scrath says

    i teach students l.arts at a school.if you are reading this comment please answer my question.
    what are dependant clause signifiers/signal words and some examples of them.
    if you have the answer or comment e.t.c please email me at

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