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  1. This fog is so thick, you can cut it with a knife.
  2. This fog is so thick that you can cut it with a knife.

Also, if only one is a dependent clause, please explain why.

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  • No: they are not constituents, not clauses, but just part of one. In both cases, the declarative content clause "(that) you can cut it with a knife" is a dependent (subordinate clause) functioning as complement of "thick" but licensed by "so".
    – BillJ
    Mar 28 at 10:10
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The first example contains two clause that are fully independent and could be separate sentences.

This fog is so thick. You can cut it with a knife.

Many people would see the close connection between the sentences, and punctuate with a semicolon:

This fog is so thick; you can cut it with a knife.

The function of the second clause must be inferred from its meaning.

(Use of a comma would result in a "run-on sentence". These are sometimes considered errors in written English, but are quite common "errors" that native speakers often make.)

In the second case, there is a subordinating conjunction: "that". This introduces a subordinate clause. The meaning is the same, but the two clauses are linked by the word "that" which tells us the function of the second clause is to give a reason for the first. So the second clause is subordinate in the second example. Its function is implied by the word "that" rather than being inferred from the meaning of the clauses.

Subordinate clauses are also called dependent clauses.

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  • In both cases, the only independent clause is the whole sentence. "This fog is so thick" is not a constituent, not a clause, but just part of one. In both cases, "(that) you can cut it with a knife" is a dependent (subordinate clause) functioning as complement of "thick" but licensed by "so"..
    – BillJ
    Mar 28 at 10:05
  • I confess that in this case I don't follow your analysis. What part of "This fog is so thick." makes it part of a clause. It is complete with subject, verb, complement. How are we to distinguish between two unrelated sentences "This fog is so thick. You can eat jelly witha spoon" and the quoted sentence. The only way that we can find depencency is based on the meaning of the parts, not on the structure. We have to infor dependency from meaning, not the other way round.
    – James K
    Mar 28 at 10:16
  • The point is that the expression "this fog is so thick" is not a constituent, so it can't be an independent (main) clause. The content clause "(that) you can cut it with a knife" is dependent (subordinate) and embedded within the larger matrix clause (the sentence as a whole) and is thus part of it.
    – BillJ
    Mar 28 at 10:27
  • This may also help: "Is so thick (that) you can cut it with a knife" is a VP consisting of two constituents: the predicator (verb) "is" and its complement, the AdjP "so thick (that) you can cut it with a knife".
    – BillJ
    Mar 28 at 13:16

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