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Independent and Dependent Clauses

21 Mar

You should first go read about Phrases and Clauses so that you can better understand the information in this post.

Remember that clauses must have a subject and a verb. Any group of words with a subject and a verb is called a clause. In English, we have two main categories of clauses: independent and dependent.

Independent Clauses

We have already learned about Simple Sentence Patterns. If you missed this post, you will probably want to go back and read about simple sentences because

simple sentences = independent clauses

That’s right. An independent clause is just another name for a simple sentence. Independent means that it doesn’t need any help. It’s a complete idea, a complete thought. So our examples from the Simple Sentence Patterns post are also examples of independent clauses:

The young boy and girl ran quickly.

The young girl and the boy threw the red ball back and forth.

The young girl threw the ball to the boy.

There are two children in the park.

The two children became tired.

(See the post about Compound Sentences with Transitions and Compound Sentences with Conjunctions to learn how to combine two independent clauses into one sentence.)

Dependent Clauses

A Dependent Clauses is a group of words with a subject and a verb, BUT it is not a complete idea, not a complete thought. It needs help. It needs to be connected to an independent clause, so usually, a dependent clause is a group of words with a subject, a verb, and a connecting word. (However, in English, there are times when we can drop/omit the connecting word because it’s understood.)

There are 3 types of dependent clauses:

  1. adverb clauses – They help show relationships like cause/effect, time, compare/contrast, condition, etc.

  2. After I learn about adverb clauses, I will use them in my writing.

  3. adjective clauses – Just like adjectives, they describe nouns.

  4. Adjective clauses, which can be difficult to learn, are used to provide extra information or help identify a person or thing.

  5. noun clauses – These work like nouns in a sentence, which means we use them as subjects and objects.

  6. I think that you already use noun clauses in your writing and speaking.

Look for more about each of these types of dependent clauses in future posts!


Photo by Jeremy Simpson on Flickr

Look at the picture above. Write a few sentences with independent and dependent clauses to describe what’s happening in the picture. Write your sentences in a comment!

Writing: Purpose

9 May

at&t advertisement o'hare

Photo by j_lai on Flickr

When you write something, you need to have a purpose. Generally, in writing, there are three possible reasons to write:

  1. to provide informationYou want to inform someone about something by describing or explaining something.

  2. Examples of information include

    • a news article that explains what happened at an event
    • a documentary about a person or a historic event
    • the directions on the back of a product
    • “how-to” videos online
  3. to persuadeYou want to convince someone to believe what you believe. You want them to think your opinion is correct (or at least that your opinion makes sense).

  4. Examples of persuasion include

    • a commercial or advertisement for a product
    • an opinion article in a newspaper or magazine
    • an e-mail to a teacher asking to let you make up a test
    • arguments in a debate
  5. to entertainYou just want people to have a good time. You want to make them laugh, have fun, or possibly just get involved emotionally. The result doesn’t have to be good emotions. The result should simply be entertainment.

  6. Examples of entertainment include

    • most television shows, including dramas, comedies, reality TV shows, music videos, etc.
    • jokes
    • movies and music
    • many of the videos on YouTube

Whenever you write, it’s important to first to understand your audience, and then, you need to decide why you’re writing to this audience. Do you want to inform, persuade, or entertain them?

It’s important to remember, too, that it’s possible to have more than one purpose. A commercial might try to provide information about a product while entertaining you and making you want to by the product (persuade). Many people find documentaries, which provide information, entertaining. It’s okay to combine purposes, but there is always a main purpose. In the end, the purpose of a commercial is to persuade you to buy a product, and the purpose of a documentary is to provide information.

Watch the video above. What’s the purpose of this video? Why do you think so? Leave a comment to share your opinions. (It’s your opinion, so it can’t be right or wrong. You just have to do a good job persuading me that you’re right!

Writing: Audience

28 Mar

Audience @ LeWeb 11 Les Docks-9319

(Photo by LeWeb11, on Flickr)

Whenever you write something, it’s important to think about your audience. Who will read what you’re writing?

The answer I always get when I ask about audience is that “anyone could read it.” It is true anyone could read it, so perhaps the better question is, “Who will want to read what you’re writing?”

Let’s use this website as an example. Anyone could read it, but who do I expect will want to read it? Who will actually read it and find the information useful? Who will return to read more? That’s my audience.

I can’t say everyone or anyone is my audience because that’s not true. My husband never reads my website. Why not? Because he speaks English fluently. English is not his native language, but he doesn’t need the type of information that’s on this site. So my audience is obviously people who don’t speak English fluently and want to learn and practice English.

But this is still not specific enough. People is very general. It includes all ages and all groups, but I know that children won’t read my site. That’s why there are many words and few pictures. I use video clips that are interesting for adults, not cartoons for children. I write about difficult and complex topics, not about colors and the alphabet.

So my goal is to try and be as specific as possible when I think about my audience:

  • Who wants or needs the type of information I’m writing about? – People who want to learn and practice English, in other words, English language learners.
  • What does my audience do? – They’re students in a university.
  • Where is my audience located? – In the United States
  • How old is my audience? – Usually 17 to 30 years old, though older or younger is possible.
  • What gender is my audience? – Both men and women.
  • What does my audience like? – They probably like listening to music, playing computer and video games, chatting online and texting, watching TV, learning about American culture, and going to parties and social events.

Once I answer these questions, then I can picture the person I’m writing to. I can use language and examples that they will understand. I can give them information they want and need. This will help them understand my writing, and that’s the goal of writing, isn’t it?

Look at the picture at the top of this post. It’s a picture of an audience. Who is in this audience? How old are they? Are they mostly men or women? What are they wearing? etc. What do you think they’re going to watch or listen to? For example, I can be pretty sure that Mickey Mouse is not going to come out and sing and dance. This is the wrong audience for that. What is this audience going to see? Explain your answer.

Grammar and Writing Practice: Verb Tenses

22 Mar

Write a letter to a group of people who want to learn English. In your letter, explain to them how to learn English. You should use yourself as an example and discuss what you are doing right now to improve your English, what you do every day, what you have done since a certain time, what you have been doing lately, what you did at some particular time in the past, what you had done before you did something else, what you are going to do in the future, what you will have done by some time, etc. You must use at least 3 different present tenses, 3 different past tenses, and 3 different future tenses in your writing. You should have a total of 10 sentences, and you should have used at least 9 different tenses.

Need to review all your tenses before trying to use them in your writing? Check out these verb tense review activities.

I would love to see your letters when you’re finished. Send me your letter (sarah@yourenglishlife.com), and yours could end up on the Advice page of this web site!

Thesis Statements

18 Mar

Find out about thesis statements by going through the slideshow below. (You will need to download/open the Powerpoint on your computer first.) When you’re finished, you can take the quiz below and see if you can recognize a good thesis statement!

thesis powerpoint

Take the quiz by deciding if each thesis statement is good or needs improvement. If it needs improvement, choose the reason why it’s not a good thesis statement.

Share the results of your quiz by leaving a comment below. Still not quite sure why a thesis statement is good or not? Post your questions below!