What Is a Dependant Clause?


Dependent clauses are used English to add detail and complexity to a sentence. Here’s a simple guide to help you understand and use dependent clauses correctly.

What is a Dependent Clause?

A dependent clause, also known as a subordinate clause, is a group of words that has a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. It depends on an independent clause to give it meaning. Are you confused? Let me explain better…


  • Dependent Clause: “Because I was tired”
  • Independent Clause: “I went to bed early.”
  • Combined: “Because I was tired, I went to bed early.”

The dependent clause “Because I was tired” adds information to the main idea but cannot be a sentence on its own.

Types of Dependent Clauses

  1. Adverbial Clauses
  • Function: Changes the verb in the main clause by providing information about time, cause, condition, purpose, etc.
  • Example: “When the rain stopped, we went outside.”
  • Explanation: “When the rain stopped” tells us when we went outside.
  1. Adjective Clauses
  • Function: Changes a noun or pronoun in the main clause by providing more information about it.
  • Example: “The book that you lent me was fascinating.”
  • Explanation: “that you lent me” gives more information about the book.
  1. Noun Clauses
  • Function: Act as a noun within the sentence.
  • Example: “What she said was surprising.”
  • Explanation: “What she said” functions as the subject of the sentence.

As you can see in all of the above examples, the dependant clause gives us more information but it cannot be a sentence on its own.

How to Use Dependent Clauses

  1. Combining with Independent Clauses
  • Example: “Although it was raining, we went for a walk.”
  • Explanation: The dependent clause “Although it was raining” adds more information to the independent clause “we went for a walk.”
  1. Punctuation Rules
  • Example: “If you study hard, you will pass the exam.”
  • Explanation: When a dependent clause comes before the independent clause, use a comma to separate them.
  • Example: “You will pass the exam if you study hard.”
  • Explanation: When the dependent clause follows the independent clause, no comma is needed.

In this example you can see that you can often reverse the order of dependant and independent clauses, just don’t forget your punctuation!

  1. Adding Detail and Complexity
  • Example: “The teacher, who was very experienced, explained the topic clearly.”
  • Explanation: The adjective clause “who was very experienced” provides additional information about the teacher.

We don’t need to mention that the teacher is very experienced and the clause “who was very experienced” cannot be a sentence on its own. So it must be a dependant clause, used to give us more information about the teacher.

The dependant clause is often information that isn’t completely necessary but it’s just nice to provide the additional information.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Fragment Sentences
  • Example:Because he was late.”
  • Correction: “Because he was late, he missed the bus.”
  • Explanation: Ensure that dependent clauses are always connected to independent clauses to form complete sentences. In simple English, remember a dependant clause CANNOT be a sentence on its own!
  • Misplaced Commas
  • Example: “She went home, because she was tired.”
  • Correction: “She went home because she was tired.”
  • Explanation: Do not use a comma when the dependent clause follows the independent clause unless it is non-essential information.


If you are preparing for an exam such as the IELTS using dependant and independent clauses correctly is essential for getting a high band score. Dependant clauses give extra information and cannot be a sentence on their own. Just remember those two pieces of information and you will rarely make mistakes with dependant clauses!

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