Sentence Elements
Main & Subordinate Clauses

What is the difference between a main clause and a subordinate clause?

Clauses can be either main or subordinate.

A main clause is one which is independent.

A subordinate clause depends on the main clause which it often modifies. Subordinating conjunctions (as, since, because...) or relative pronouns (who, which, that) usually introduce dependent clauses.

     While I was driving, I noticed the leaves had begun to turn
     autumn colours.

     The first clause, while I was driving, is a subordinate
     clause introduced by the subordinate conjunction "while." The
     clause is subordinate because it cannot stand by itself as a
     complete sentence.

     The second clause is the main clause. By itself, I noticed
     the leaves had begun to turn autumn colours can be a whole
Main and Subordinate Clauses

By clicking on a bubble, identify whether the highlighted clause is independent (main) or dependent (subordinate). If your response shows as "Incorrect" in the status bar, you can click on the other answers to find the correct one (which will give you "Correct" in the status bar).

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Copyright © 1998
English Department
University of Calgary

Last updated: July 26 1999