Dependent clause masterclass

This lesson helps us understand what a dependent clause is, how to use it in a sentence, and when to use it. We also get to learn all types of dependent clauses in English.

Dependent clause in English
Dependent clause in English

What is a dependent clause in English?

Dependent clause definition: A group of words that has a subject and a predicate but doesn’t give a complete meaning on its own is called a dependent clause in English. All dependent clauses start with a subordinating conjunction. They often work as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs in a sentence.

Because you are late.

This is a group of words that starts with a subordinating conjunction ‘because’, has a subject (you), and a predicate (are late). But it doesn’t give us a complete meaning and leaves us with the question ‘so what?’. This clause will only make sense when it is used with or in an independent clause.

Let’s try to add it to an independent clause and see if it makes sense afterward.

1. You can’t get the entry because you are late.
2. They won’t let you give the test because you’re late.

The sentences make complete sense now. The dependent clause is working as a part of the sentence here. Let’s take another example of a dependent clause alone.

What you want.

This clause alone doesn’t make any sense. It lacks context. Let’s try using it in a sentence to render a proper idea.

1. I know what you want.
2. We don’t care about what you want.
3. What we want is not expensive.

Now, these are complete sentences that make sense. The dependent clauses are put within a sentence, in place of a noun. But alone, as we have seen already, they don’t make complete sense.

Examples of Dependent clauses

Let’s study more examples of Dependent clauses in sentences and see how they don’t stand alone and are used with independent clauses to give a complete meaning.


  1. Some people don’t listen to you even if you talk for themselves.
  2. As soon as I started talking about his girlfriend, he walked out of the room.
  3. I would love to teach you what I have learned recently.
  4. Tell me what happened yesterday at the party.
  5. We wouldn’t stop hustling until we get what we want.
  6. What I had yesterday at the coffee shop did not sit well with my stomach.
  7. Don’t give advice unless you are asked to.
  8. India pulled the victory out of Australia’s hands though they didn’t have their senior players on the team.

Types of dependent clauses in English

There are 3 types of dependent clauses in English:

  1. Noun clause
  2. Adjective clause
  3. Adverb clause

Let’s study them separately to understand everything about them.

1. Noun clause

A noun clause is a dependent clause that starts with a relative pronoun and works as a noun in a sentence. It is used in place of a subject, object of the verb, object of a preposition, object complement, and subject complement.

Relatives pronouns used at the beginning of a noun clause: what, whatever that, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, whomsoever why, where, when, when, and how

I love what I do.

In this example, the object of the verb (what I do) is a dependent clause. It is working as a noun in the sentence.

We don’t want to hear about whom you are dating.

The dependent clause in the sentence is coming in place of the object of the preposition ‘about’ and working as a noun. Since it is an essential part of the sentence, taking it out of the sentence would make it incomplete.

More examples:

  • No one knows what you are up to.
  • How you tricked him into doing it was simply amazing.
  • All of us want to know why you left that organization.
  • I know where she lives, but I won’t give you her address.
  • You can take whatever you want; all of this is for you.
  • Tell me who is threatening you.

While observing that these dependent clauses are working as a noun in these sentences, keep in mind and see that they are incomplete on their own.

Adjective clause

An adjective clause is a dependent clause that works as an adjective. It comes next to a noun/pronoun and gives information about it. When a dependent clause functions as an adjective, it starts with the following subordinating conjunctions: that, which, who, and whom.


  • Do you know someone who can solve this problem?
    (The dependent clause in the example comes after the pronoun ‘someone’ and gives information about it, working as an adjective.)
  • I have seen the girl whom you are seeing these days.
    (Here, the dependent clause sits next to the noun ‘girl’ and modifies it with essential information.)
  • The book that I gave you last week was given to me by one of my college professors.
    (The dependent clause in the sentence comes after the noun ‘book’ and modifies with essential information.)
  • I would love to go to Dubai, which is my favorite city.
    (The adjective clause here gives non-essential information about the noun ‘Dubai’. The information it gives here is non-essential as Dubai is already a proper or identified noun.)

WHY, WHERE, and WHEN can also be used in an adjective clause.

  • I know the reason why you are here. (modifying the noun ‘reason’)
  • Do you still remember the place where he took you on a date? (Modifying the noun ‘place’)
  • We don’t know the exact time when he comes here. (Modifying the noun ‘time’)

Let me tell you an interesting thing about these dependent clauses. Removing the nouns or noun phrases these dependent clauses (adjectives) modify from the sentences would make the dependent clauses stop functioning as an adjective and start functioning as a noun.

Let’s try to do this with the first example.

I know why you are here.

The only change we’ve made to the sentence is there we have removed the direct object (noun phrase) from the sentence. Now, the dependent clause is not modifying anything and working as an adjective, it’s working as the direct object of the verb ‘know’.

Earlier sentence: I know the reason why you are here.
structure: subject + verb + object (noun phrase)
Noun phrase: premodifier (the) + noun (reason) + post modifier (why you are here)
Recent sentence: I know why you are here. 
Structure: subject + verb + object (noun clause)

Adverb clause

An adverb clause, also known as an adverbial clause, is a dependent clause that works as an adverb in a sentence. It modifies the main verb and tells us WHY, WHEN, WHERE, and HOW an action happens. Since it is a dependent clause, it starts with a subordinating conjunction.

Here’s a list of subordinating conjunctions that are used in adverb clauses when they answer the following questions:

HOWas if, provided, like
WHYsince, as, because, because of, now that, given that, so that, that
WHENwhen, whenever, after, before, since, until, while, as soon as, by the time, once
WHEREwhere, anywhere, everywhere
  • They treat me as if I am a kid.
    (Notice the dependent clause is working as an adverb in the sentence and modifying the main verb in terms of how the action happens. ‘As if’ is the subordinating conjunction in it.)
  • Jon is not playing with us because he injured his knees last night.
    (Here, the dependent clause works as a reason for the main verb or the action in the main clause (dependent clause). Notice that it starts with a subordinating conjunction (because)).
  • I will leave the room until you give me my money back.
    (The dependent clause, in this example, tells the time of the main clause and renders a sense of a condition too)
  • We will meet where we had our first date.
    (The dependent clause tells the place of the main clause; it modifies the main verb of the main clause and indicates where the action is going to take place.)

More examples of dependent clauses as an adverb:

  1. Don’t talk to me like I am a kid.
  2. Before I reached there, he had already left for his flight.
  3. If you don’t want to work with us, you don’t have to do it.
  4. The management will not release your payment unless you deliver the complete assignment.
  5. No one is going to trouble you as long as I am here.
  6. Jon could not prepare his speech as he was not given enough time for it.

Dependent clause and commas

Use the following as a thumb rule:

  1. Use a comma right after a dependent clause when it comes at the beginning of a sentence.
  2. Don’t use a comma before a dependent clause if it comes right after an independent clause.


  • If you believe in yourself, nothing can keep you down.
  • No one will take you seriously if you keep joking around.
  • Though he was under the weather, he came to work and finished the project.
  • She will not work with you unless you release her previous payments.

Now, we know everything about dependent clauses . Feel free to share your question, doubt, or feedback in the comment section, and also, share the post with the people that need it.

For one-on-one classes, contact me at [email protected].

NOTE: the FAQs are taken from the internet. They might have grammatical mistakes in them. Please ignore the mistakes you come across in the questions.


What are the 3 types of dependent clauses?

There are three types of dependent clauses in English: 1) Noun clause 2) Adjective clause 3) Adverb clause
What I want from you is very expensive. (Working as a noun, the subject)
The watch that you bought me the other day was stolen yesterday. (Working as an adjective, modifying ‘watch’)
They hang out with you because you buy them things. (Working as an adverb)

Where is the dependent clause in a sentence?

A dependent clause either sits right before an independent clause (main clause) or comes right after it. It is not used in a simple or compound sentence.

How do I identify a dependent clause?

In order to identify a dependent clause, look for the following things:
It has a subject and a predicate
It starts with a subordinating conjunction
It doesn’t give a complete meaning in its own
It works as a noun, adjective, or adverb in a sentence

What is the difference between dependent and independent clause?

Both dependent and independent clauses have a subject and a predicate in them. But the main difference between them is that an independent clause gives a complete meaning on its own and works like a sentence, and a dependent clause does. It works as a part of a sentence, functioning as a noun, adjective, or adverb.

How do you write a dependent clause?

You can write or form a dependent clause by using a subordinating conjunction ( such as because, if, though, unless, when, what, how, who, as if…) and a subject and a predicate. We need a dependent clause when we want to modify a noun, modify a verb/adjective, or need a noun clause. Examples: 1) I know the man whom you’re talking about. 2) I called him because I needed some money. 3) I liked what you gave me.

What is an example of a dependent and independent clause?

An example of an independent clause: I love you. An example of a dependent clause: I love you because you’re my brother.

What is another name for a dependent clause?

A Dependent clause is also known as a subordinating clause because it starts with a subordinating conjunction.

What are dependent clauses?

These are clauses that don’t give a complete meaning on their own and work as a sentence. They start with a subordinating conjunction and have a subject and a predicate in them. Ex – She told me why she had left the meeting.

All types of clauses in English
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Ashish found his first love—the English language—a few years back. Since then, he has been immersed in the language, breaking down the language and teaching it to passionate English learners. He has a flair for listening to the English language (podcasts, sitcoms, stories), observing the nuances, and making it easy for English learners. He is known for breaking down complex English topics and making them easy to be understood.

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