The Structural Foundation of the Sentence
Clauses Are Noun/Verb Combos
A sentence clause a key unit of the sentence. It represents the noun/verb combinations that differentiate complete from incomplete sentences.
Clauses vs. Phrases
Note the a clause always has a noun or a verb. A phrase is not quite a clause — it's simply a group words that fills in as a single part of speech.
Independent Clauses Are Complete Sentences
An independent clause is basically the "adult" of sentences clauses — it can live on its own. It always has a subject and verb, and they can stand alone.
An Independent Clause is a Verb Clause — it fulfills the function of the predicate in a sentence.
Examples of Independent Clauses
The cat scratches Spot.
The cat laughs.
Cats are evil.
More Complicated Examples of Independent Clauses
Note that the prior examples are very simple — they are easily expanded. You can shift meaning by changing the tense, adding modifiers, and (in our next section) dependent clauses:
Some dog ran through our front gate.
My calico cat Petunia scratched that dog in our garden.
The pathetic dog cried.
Petunia cackled like a witch.
Petunia is one evil cat.
Dependent Clauses Mooch Off the Dependent Clauses
Dependent clauses cause confusion because they also have a noun and a verb. But they aren't independent. Instead, they modify meanings in the independent clause. Noun Clauses can function as nouns, Adjectival Clauses can modify nouns, and Adverbial Clauses modify the verb.
Typically, the adverbial clauses are the ones you most need to worry about. Because they modify the verb, they often modify the entire sentence. Some adverbial clauses are so long, in fact, that they are easily mistaken for independent clauses.
Examples of Dependent Clauses
The dependent clauses are in italics:
Adverbial: When I was gardening, Spot ran through the begonias.
Adjectival: Petunia, whom I love with all my heart, scratched Spot in the face.
Noun Clause: That pathetic animal who digs holes in my garden cried.
Adverbial: After seeing the dog cry, Petunia laughed.
Adjectival: Petunia is one evil cat who loves tormenting any animal who treads upon my garden. (note that there are two dependent clauses: one that modifies cat, and other than modifies animal.)