Dependent clause

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In linguistics, a dependent clause (also subordinate clause) is a clause that is used in conjunction with an independent clause and that augments it with additional information. Dependent clauses cannot stand alone as a sentence; instead, they modify the independent clause of a sentence or serve as a component of it. Some grammarians use the term subordinate clause as a synonym for dependent clause, but in some grammars subordinate clause refers only to adverbial dependent clauses.

Dependent words

In Indo-European languages, a dependent clause usually begins with a dependent word. One kind of dependent word is a subordinating conjunction. Subordinating conjunctions are used to begin dependent clauses known as adverbial clauses, which act like adverbs. In the following examples, the adverbial clauses are bold and the subordinating conjunctions are italicized:

  • Wherever she goes, she leaves a piece of luggage behind.
(The adverbial clause wherever she goes modifies the verb leaves.)


  • Bob enjoyed the movie more than I did.
(The adverbial clause than I did modifies the adverb more.)


Another type of dependent word is the relative pronoun. Relative pronouns begin dependent clauses known as relative clauses. These can either be adjective clauses, which act like adjectives, or noun clauses, which act like nouns. In the following examples, the dependent clauses are bold and the relative pronouns are italicized:

  • The only one of the seven dwarfs who does not have a beard'...... ... ...
  • ...

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