An independent clause is a clause that can stand by itself as its sentence. It’s a complete thought and doesn’t depend on other clauses to make grammatical sense. But, like all other clauses, it has a subject and a predicate (often a verb).

To be independent, an independent clause must contain a verb and a subject but not start with a subordinating word or phrase.

An independent clause is the building block of a sentence. Without an independent clause, the sentence wouldn’t even be a sentence: it would just be a group of words that don’t make sense yet.

Also known as the main clause, an independent clause is the opposite of a dependent (or subordinate) clause. Where independent clauses can stand independently, dependent clauses depend on the independent clause to make sense. It’s helpful to remember these two as opposites when learning the definition of an independent clause.

What is an example of an independent clause?

To know what an independent clause is, it’s helpful to see some examples. Here are just a few:

  • The moon orbits around the Earth.
  • The weather is nice today.
  • She’s wearing a yellow coat.
  • Cats like to sleep a lot.
  • Dogs are amicable.
  • I’m going to the cinema.
  • The ocean is full of beautiful creatures.
  • Chocolate is one of my favorite foods.
  • Novels are excellent to read.
  • Shakespeare is the world’s most famous playwright.
  • Flowers have petals in a range of colors.

How do you identify an independent clause?

When trying to identify whether a clause is independent or not, there are three things that you should look for:

  • Does it contain a subject?
  • Does it have a verb?
  • Does it express a complete thought?

The issue is what the sentence is about, and the verb describes the subject’s action.

A whole idea means you don’t need additional information to understand what the sentence is telling you.

Here’s how an independent clause is broken down into these parts:

  • She’s wearing a yellow coat.

‘She’ and the ‘yellow coat’ are both subjects – they’re what the sentence is about. The verb is ‘wearing’ because it’s what ‘she’ is doing, and the action is happening to the yellow coat.

This sentence is a complete thought because we don’t need additional information to understand what’s happening. We see what the sentence is telling us from these words alone.

So, the easiest way to tell if something is an independent clause is to check whether it’s a complete sentence. Remembering this independent clause definition will help your pupils learn grammar.

However, it’s essential to remember that independent clauses can be used alongside other clauses. When you’re looking to see whether it’s a complete sentence, just looking for the capital letter and full stop can throw you off.

Some independent clauses can be used in conjunction to make a compound sentence, which means the clause might be followed or introduced by a coordinating conjunction. That’s why looking for the subject, verb, and complete thought is more effective.

Independent Marker Words

For some kinds of independent clauses, you can look for something called an independent marker word. It is a connecting word used at the start of an independent clause. These include:

  • also;
  • however;
  • consequently;
  • furthermore;
  • moreover;
  • nevertheless;
  • therefore.

An independent clause must follow when used at the beginning of a sentence.

  • I enjoy baking. Therefore, I’m going to make cookies this weekend.

If the second independent clause in a sentence has one of these marker words, you must use a semicolon before the independent marker word and a comma afterward.

  • I love reading; however, I struggle to find a good book.

When can you connect independent clauses?

We can connect two independent clauses to make a longer sentence when the two are closely linked. This link is usually when the second clause explains, summarises, or emphasizes the first.


  • Monessentials are agile: they have flexible limbs and a tail for balance.


  • Edinburgh has lots of cathedrals and landmarks: it’s a beautiful city.


  • My book collection is getting out of hand: I’m running out of space on my shelves!

When we connect two independent clauses, they’re given equal importance in the sentence.

Punctuation: Do you need a comma between 2 independent clauses?

When learning to punctuate independent clauses, using just a comma is one of the most common mistakes.

You can’t connect two independent clauses with just a comma. If you do this, you create a comma splice.

If you don’t use punctuation, you create a run-on sentence.

When connecting two independent clauses, you must use a coordinating conjunction, a comma, a colon, or a semi-colon.


  • Susie is my friend; she’s super fun to hang out with.
  • Susie is my friend. She’s super fun to hang out with.


  • Susie is my friend: she’s super fun to hang out with.
  • Susie is my friend; she’s super fun to hang out with.
  • Susie is my friend, and she’s super fun to hang out with.

Choosing which punctuation to use will depend on what you’re writing. Using a coordinating conjunction and a comma is most common for informal writing or in a story’s dialogue.

Using a colon or semicolon is often considered more formal. You might find more instances of this in information texts, like a fact file.

Volume: How many independent clauses can you have in a sentence?

Connecting multiple independent clauses within a sentence creates a compound sentence. Usually, two are related, but you can also connect three.

Here’s an example:

  • I like cats, and I like dogs: they’re both adorable.

The clauses are connected by a coordinating conjunction (‘and’) and a colon.

The compound sentence can be split into three separate independent clauses, each making sense as stand-alone sentences:

  • I like cats.
  • I like dogs.
  • They’re both adorable.

However, using too many independent clauses in a sentence can get very long and wordy! Therefore, it’s best to keep to two or three independent clauses per sentence at a maximum. After three, it’s usually best to start a new sentence.

Short independent clauses

You might think that independent clauses have to be a certain length to qualify as independent, but that’s not the case. Some independent clauses can be as short as two words or just one. Here’s how.

‘Thank you is an independent clause. ‘Thank’ is the verb, ‘you’ is the subject, and it’s a complete thought. So, therefore, it’s an independent clause.

We can still go shorter! ‘Go’ is, in fact, a completely independent clause. ‘Go’ itself is the verb. And while there’s no explicit subject, it’s implied that the subject is you, the listener, or the reader. It’s also a complete thought because the sentence tells us to ‘go.’

Independent and dependent clauses in sentences

We have learned a little more about how they function alongside clauses in a sentence. For example, independent and dependent clauses are often connected to create a complex sentence. Read on to learn more about the different functions of independent and dependent clauses.

  • An independent clause is a clause that can stand on its own by itself. It simply details an action or event.
  • A dependent clause is a clause that does not express a complete thought. Dependent clauses function to add more detail or context to the independent clause.

Connecting Sentences with Independent and Dependent Clauses

We can connect independent and dependent clauses to make complex sentences. It’s essential to remember that the dependent clause needs the independent clause to make sense: it depends upon it.

To connect the independent and dependent clause, we use subordinating conjunctions, remembered by the mnemonic I SAW A WABUB:

  • if;
  • since;
  • as;
  • when;
  • although;
  • while;
  • after;
  • before;
  • until;
  • because.

The independent or dependent clause can come first in the sentence as long as the dependent clause has a subordinating conjunction.

Here’s an example:

I enjoy going on long walks, although it can be tiring.


Although it can be tiring, I enjoy going on long walks.

So, where are the independent and dependent clauses in these examples?’I enjoy going on long walks as the independent clause, and ‘although it can be tiring’ is the dependent clause, with ‘although’ acting as the subordinating conjunction.

We know that ‘although it can be tiring’ is the dependent clause because it wouldn’t make sense as a sentence all on its own. So we need the independent clause to understand the context and gain the whole meaning of the sentence.

Connecting sentences with independent and dependent clauses can extend our writing and tell the reader more information. It’s the next step up from just using independent clauses.

Here are more examples of sentences with independent and dependent clauses:

  • I went to the beach today, which was very relaxing.
  • I like bananas, while my brother prefers apples.
  • She will come if you ask nicely.
  • He hasn’t seen her since they argued.
  • I will get there as soon as I can.
  • My dog likes it when I throw a ball at him.
  • I don’t particularly appreciate eating vegetables, although I know they are healthy.
  • She wants to listen to music while she studies.
  • They’re going to a party after eating dinner.
  • I must prepare before my big exam.
  • He’s playing tennis until 5 o’clock.
  • I like going to the park because there is a lot to do there.
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