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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Grammar Handbook: Independent and Dependent Clauses

A clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a predicate. There are two types of clauses: independent and dependent. An independent clause can stand alone as a sentence, while a dependent clause must be accompanied by an independent clause.

Independent Clauses

Two independent clauses can be connected by:

Dependent Clauses

Dependent clauses can be either adjective, adverb, or noun clauses based on how they are used in a sentence.

Adjective (or relative) clauses modify nouns or pronouns and, in order to make the relationship clear, follow the noun or pronoun they modify.


Adverb clauses modify single words (verbs, adjectives, or adverbs) or entire phrases or clauses. They always begin with a subordinating conjunction. Adverb clauses answer the questions how? where? when? why? and to what extent? Adverb clauses appear in any of several places in the sentence as long as the relationship is clear and its position conveys the intended purpose.


Noun clauses act as nouns in sentences (subjects, direct objects, indirect objects, or complements). They may begin with a relative pronoun or "by," "whether," "when," "where," "why," or "how."