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Commas & Coordinate & Subordinate Clauses
Alphabetical list of Handouts & Guides

Words of Wisdom

There seems to have been in every period of the past, as there is now, a distinct apprehension in the minds of very many worthy persons that the English tongue is always in the condition approaching collapse, and that arduous efforts must be put forth, and put forth persistently, in order to save it from destruction.

—  The Standard of Usage in English (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1908): 1-2.

— Thomas R. Lounsbury

Howdy! Thanks for tuning into the UWC Write Right Podcast Claustrophobia. In this podcast, we’re going to talk about how to punctuate coordinated and subordinated sentences as well as the difference between an independent and dependent clause.
First let’s talk about the difference between independent and dependent clauses. An independent clause can stand on its own and is a complete sentence. They’re also called main clauses. In contrast, a dependent clause cannot stand on its own and is not a complete sentence. These clauses are also known as subordinate clauses.
Coordinated Sentences consist of two independent clauses. Use coordinated sentences to create balance, put equal emphasis on each clause, and show relationships between ideas. There are three different ways to write coordinated sentences.
The first way is using a coordinating conjunction, better known as one of the FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. You can remember it this way: you have two complete sentences, so you need two elements to join them: a comma and a FANBOY. For example, “I’m sexy, and I know it.” Both I’m sexy and I know it are independent clauses; each can stand on its own. Notice that you need a comma after the first independent clause.
The second way to write a coordinated sentence is by using either a conjunctive adverb, such as consequently, or a transition word, like furthermore. The semi-colon represents a very strong relationship between the two independent clauses. “You’ll never get the chance to break my heart again; furthermore, I don’t love you anyway.” The semi-colon links these two clauses together. This brings us to coordinated sentence #3…
…using the semi-colon to join two independent clauses. Caution! This structure should be used sparingly, as it is often used incorrectly—remember that both clauses need to independent. Think of the semi-colon as an equal sign. The phrases oftentimes reiterate the same idea. For example, “All you need is love; love is all you need.” These two independent clauses have a very strong relationship to each other; thus, the use of a semi-colon.
The next type of sentence we’ll look at is called a subordinated sentence which consists of an independent clause and a dependent clause. Use subordinated sentences to create imbalance and emphasize the independent clause. Subordinated sentences also show relationships between ideas. There are two different ways to write this type of sentence, and the punctuation between the two is often confused.
The first sentence has the independent clause first, followed by a subordinating conjunction, like when or because. This subordinating conjunction is what makes the dependent clause dependent; it cannot stand alone. Here’s an example: “You think I’m funny when I tell the punch line wrong.” You think I’m funny is the independent clause. …when I tell the punch line wrong is the dependent clause because it cannot stand alone. Notice that you do not need a comma.
The second way to write a subordinated sentence is with the dependent clause first. “If you’re having girl problems, I feel bad for you, son.” “If you’re having girl problems” is the dependent clause. “I feel bad for you son,” is the independent clause. See the difference? Notice that in this case, our punctuation changes. If the dependent clause comes first, you need a comma!
 So Let’s review. A coordinated sentence has two independent clauses. Remember that an independent clause can stand on its own. In the first sentence, when using a FANBOY, you need to use a comma. If you use a conjunctive adverb or a transition word like consequently or furthermore, you can use a semi-colon, but don’t forget the comma after the introductory word. And finally, you can join two very similar sentences with a semi-colon.
 Now let’s review subordinated sentences. A subordinated sentence has an independent and a dependent clause. Remember that a dependent clause cannot stand on its own. If the independent clause comes first, you don’t need a comma. But if the dependent clause comes first, you do need a comma.
 Hopefully I’ve demystified some of the punctuation used when joining ideas and clauses. Once again, my name is Jenni. Thanks for tuning into the UWC’s Write Right Podcast Claustrophobia.

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