What is the intended effect of clauses?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The use of clauses--groups of words that contain their own subjects and predicates--in one's writing (or speech) can produce several effects. Certainly, the employment of clauses enhances the coherence of a piece of writing and its variety while reducing redundancy; moreover, it helps to create a style of writing that can be uniquely the writer's. And, the use of clauses provides a variety of ways to introduce a sentence, provide more information, or to establish the relationship of ideas.

Consider these points:

  • Since independent clauses can stand alone as complete sentences while subordinate, or dependent, clauses cannot and must be connected to independent clauses as part of a sentence, the use of ideas in an independent clause lends them more importance.

e.g. The newspaper reports that the new school will open in September. [independent clause--it can stand alone]

  • Ideas contained in a subordinate clause are of lesser importance, or are dependent for meaning upon the ideas in an adjoining independent clause; subordinate clauses cannot stand alone. So, a complex sentence which is formed with an independent clause and a dependent clause weighs ideas in importance. 

e.g. The new school will open on September 3, 2013, after the new principal cuts the ribbon. [dependent clause/adverbial clause]

  • On the other hand, a compound sentence, one made from the combination of two independent clauses, places each idea as equal to the other in importance.
  • The establishment of independent with dependent clauses creates a variety, while it also establishes coherence and logical thought since all ideas are not equal. Often, too, dependent clauses establish the relationship of ideas.

e.g. Because the horses are properly registered, they will be allowed to run in the race. [The first clause is dependent, but it establishes a reason; the second clause is independent and establishes the more important idea of the sentence.]

  • In addition, the use of dependent clauses such as adjective and adverb clauses, can provide supporting ideas for nouns or verbs in one sentence rather than the ideas having to be written in two simple sentences. Thus, the use of clauses contributes to sentence variety as well as maturity/sophistication of construction

e.g. Old Mr. Behrman, who seemed to be little more than a curmudgeon, demonstrated unselfish love in his sacrifice for Johnsy in O. Henry's "The Last Leaf." [adjective clause provides more information, developing the character]

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