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I'm having a little difficulty understanding the structure of sentences clauses. I understand that an independent clause works on its own as a simple sentence and that a dependent clause does not, but I'm having some difficulties identifying them.


I have read that a clause should contain both a subject and a verb and that there should be a relationship between them. But in these examples of independent clauses (found here), they seem to have more than one verb, more than one subject and even contain conjunctions.

Andrew decided to buy a sundae instead of a double-scoop cone.

Peter and Elaine could not decide if they wanted to elope or have a big wedding.


The same site claims this is two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (a compound sentence).

The beach is a lot of fun, yet the mountains are better.

But surely the last clause doesn't stand on its own.


Lastly, I have read that only coordinating conjunctions can be used to join independent clauses. (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)

So can I really not say the below sentence (even though Grammarly thinks it's fine)?

I am going to the park because I like nature.


Any help would be appreciated.

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  • Simon, you have to remove the conjunction yet and it does stand on its own. The conjunctions like because, yet, etc. are not an actual part of the test to see if something is or is not an independent clause.
    – Lambie
    Nov 30 '21 at 17:54
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[1] Andrew decided [to buy a sundae instead of a double-scoop cone].

[2] Peter and Elaine could not decide [if they wanted to elope or have a big wedding].

[3] The beach is a lot of fun, [yet the mountains are better].

[4] I am going to the park because [I like nature]

You've cited a mixed bag of examples, each containing a subordinate (dependent) clause, in brackets.

Preliminary point: a subordinate (dependent) clause is one that is dependent on some other element in the sentence.

[1] is a catenative construction with the subordinate infinitival clause functioning as catenative complement of the catenative verb "decide". The subordinate clause is non-finite and thus subordinate.

[2] "If" is a subordinator introducing the subordinate interrogative clause (indirect question), where it marks the clause as subordinate. Within the subordinate clause is a coordination of two further subordinate clauses each functioning as complement of the catenative verb "want". The subordinator "to" marks the coordination as subordinate.

[3] "Yet" is classified by some as a connective adverb, and by others as a marginal member of the coordinator category. In the latter interpretation, the bracketed clause is not subordinate but a main clause, not dependent on any other element in the sentence.

[4] "Because" is regarded by modern grammar as a preposition, here with the bracketed subordinate content clause as its complement. There is no internal marker of subordination: the clause is shown to be subordinate by virtue of its function in the larger construction.

For those who take "because" as a conjunction it is a subordinating one, and the bracketed constituent is a finite subordinate clause with the subordinator "because" being a marker of subordination.

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The general rule is this: Every clause must contain either one predicate or multiple predicates connected in series; every predicate must contain either one simple predicate (SP) or multiple SPs connected in series. Let's look at your example sentences and all of the verbs.

(Important note: I am using fairly traditional definitions of "clause" and "predicate" that exclude reduced clauses, infinitival clauses, etc. I am also simplifying the rule a bit, but I'm trying to keep this pretty basic.)

Andrew decided to buy a sundae instead of a double-scoop cone.

This sentence contains one clause, containing one predicate, whose SP is "decided". "To buy" is a complement of "decided".

Peter and Elaine could not decide if they wanted to elope or have a big wedding.

This sentence contains two clauses. The main clause contains one predicate, whose SP is "could". "Decide" is a complement of "could". The subordinate clause also contains one predicate, whose SP is "wanted". "To elope" and "[to] have" are complements of "wanted".

The beach is a lot of fun, yet the mountains are better.

This sentence does indeed contain two main clauses, each with one predicate. The SP of the first predicate is "is", and the SP of the second predicate is "are". The second main clause certainly can stand on its own: "The mountains are better."

I am going to the park because I like nature.

This sentence contains two clauses, but they are not both independent clauses. The main (independent) clause contains one predicate, whose SP is "am". "Going" might be interpreted in multiple ways; I prefer to analyze it as a verb in present participle form functioning as an adjectival dependent of "am". (Others will certainly construe it differently.) The subordinate clause contains one predicate, whose SP is "like".

By the way, none of your predicates contained multiple SPs in series. Here is an example:

I laughed and cried at the movie.

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  • I am going to the park (because) I like nature. Well, if because is merely a linking word, they are independent.
    – Lambie
    Nov 30 '21 at 17:58
  • @Lambie I consider "because" here to be a subordinator (subordinating conjunction). Nov 30 '21 at 18:03

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