Commas and Dependent Clauses

The English Corner at Richland College
Commas and Dependent Clauses
Writing can be divided into smaller parts in order to better understand the various rules of
grammar and punctuation. These include the following:
Phrases: groups of words that collectively perform a specific function in a sentence
(known as the part of speech) and do not have a subject (the person, place, or thing that is
the main focus of the sentence) or a predicate (the action the subject of the sentence
Clauses: types of phrases that contain at least one subject and one predicate
Sentences: groups of clauses that include at least one independent clause
Paragraphs: groups of sentences unified around a single topic
Independent Clauses
An independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence or can be combined with another
independent clause to form a compound sentence. When an independent clause is combined with
a dependent clause, they form a complex sentence. An independent clause conveys a complete
thought by itself.
Example: Apple has a new music-streaming app.
Example: The new Avengers movie is a blockbuster.
Dependent Clauses
A dependent clause cannot stand alone and does not convey a complete thought. Dependent
clauses typically begin with subordinating words. Dependent clauses are not complete sentences,
so they must be connected to independent clauses in order to make sense. The following is a list
of common subordinating words:
Time: after, before, until, when, whenever, while
Condition: even, whether, provided, unless, once
Cause and Effect: as, because, inasmuch, now that, since
Contrast: although, though, even though, while, whereas
Example: after she watched the concert
Example: since I am late for work
Example: even though I am tired
Handout created by Jane Stidham
An adverb clause is the most common dependent clause. Adverb clauses are used to modify
verbs, adjectives, or adverbs in the main independent clause. An adverb clause answers the
questions when, where, why, how, to what extent, or how much about the word it modifies.
If an adverb/dependent clause begins the sentence (it comes before an independent clause), a
comma needs to follow the clause:
Example: Because it was raining, the art festival was postponed.
Example: While I was waiting for the bus, I drank my coffee.
Example: When I go home on vacation, I will be able to see some old high school
If an adverb/dependent clause follows the independent clause, a comma is not needed.
Example: The art festival was postponed because it was raining.
Example: I drank my coffee while I was waiting for the bus.
Example: I will be able to see some old high school friends when I go home on
However, there are always exceptions to rules. If a dependent clause begins with although, even
though, though, whereas, or any other contradictory subordinating word, a comma is needed
before the dependent clause when it follows an independent clause.
Example: I am still going to the concert, even though I am tired.
Example: My sister is going to major in computer science, whereas I am going into the
business world.
Example: I am considering going to China or Tibet for my vacation, although I might
visit some other exotic vacation spots.
Handout created by Jane Stidham