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{Sentence Types: Clauses}

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Words of Wisdom

Those of us who have been doomed to read manuscripts written in an examination room—whether at a grammar school, high school, or a college—have found the work of even good scholars disfigured by bad spelling, confusing punctuation, ungrammatical, obscure, ambiguous, or inelegant expressions. Everyone who has had much to do with the graduating classes of our best colleges has known men who could not write a letter describing their own Commencement without making blunders which would disgrace a boy twelve years old.

— Adam Sherman Hill

Coordinate sentences give balanced and equal emphasis to the ideas expressed in each part of the sentence, while subordinate sentences give greater emphasis to one side or the other and express the relationship between the sides with a word that ties them together. Following is a simple visual to show the relationship between coordinate and subordinate sentences and how to punctuate them properly.
First, you need to distinguish between a dependent and an independent clause.
Coordinate sentences consist of two or more independent clauses. Use a coordinate sentence to create a balanced sentence with equal emphasis on each clause and to show relationships between ideas.

In the first pattern, below, the independent clauses are joined by a comma and a coordinating conjunction. (The seven coordinating conjunctions in English are listed in the brackets). The first letters of the coordinating conjunctions spell “fanboys,” a way to remember them.  In the second pattern, they are joined by a semi-colon (;) and a word that clarifies their relationship; this word is called a conjunctive adverb, and the list here is representative but not exhaustive. In the third pattern, they are simply joined by a semi-colon.


Ex. 1 Reveille gets royal treatment, but she works hard to foster school spirit.
Ex. 2 Reveille gets royal treatment; however, she works hard to foster school spirit.
Ex. 3 Reveille gets royal treatment; she works hard to foster school spirit.

Subordinate sentences consist of a dependent clause and an independent clause. Use a subordinate sentence to emphasize the independent clause and to show relationships between ideas. Dependent clauses begin with a subordinating conjunction, examples of which are shown in the brackets.

The dependent clause and the independent clause can be reversed in order. In pattern 1, the Independent clause comes first, so there is no comma between the clauses. In pattern 2, the independent clause comes last, so there is a comma between them.


Ex. 1. Reveille gets royal treatment because she works hard to foster school spirit.
Ex. 2. Because Reveille works hard to foster school spirit, she gets royal treatment.

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