I am learning phrases and clauses and one definition says that independent clauses and sentences are same.

Is it true?

E.g. He ate dinner.

Is it both a sentence and an independent clause? If so, then is independent clause a synonym of sentence?

If they aren't same, then what is the difference between them?

2 Answers 2


A clause is “independent” if it could be a sentence on its own. And the simplest sentences are just that: one independent clause.

But sentences can be much more complex, with varying combinations of one or more independent clauses and zero or more dependent clauses.

Sometimes, we make sentences that don’t have an independent clause, usually for literary effect. But you need to learn the rules before you can understand when it’s safe to break them.


No, they are not synonymous.

By definition, an independent clause can be a standalone sentence, but it doesn't have to be.

It is raining, so I won't go out for dinner.

This is a sentence composed of two independent clauses joined by a coordinator "so". In the same manner independent clauses connected with semicolons also form one sentence with multiple clauses.

Also a sentence doesn't have to comprise independent clauses. Incomplete sentences, which often appear in literary works, are also sentences in their own right. Imperative sentences usually lack necessary components to independent clauses. In conclusion, "sentence" and "independent clause" are two different yet related and often confused concepts.

  • In modern grammar, "so" is analysed as a preposition, not a subordinator, thus "so I won't go out for dinner" is a PP with "so" as head and the declarative content clause "I won't go out for dinner" as its complement.
    – BillJ
    Oct 27, 2020 at 8:07
  • @BillJ Interesting! That's in accordance with CGEL? Btw, I didn't say "subordinator". I said "coordinator", but I know the categorization of "so" is hazy. My point stands with "and". Is "and he didn't come either" also a PP in "She didn't come, and he didn't come either"?
    – Eddie Kal
    Oct 27, 2020 at 18:15

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