A clause is a group of words that has both a subject and a predicate. Every complete sentence is made up of at least one clause.
Michael bought a new computer. (One sentence, one clause)
Michael bought a new computer, but he still has the old one. (One sentence, two clauses)
Although he still has his old one, Michael now has a new computer. (One sentence, two clauses)
An independent clause (or main clause) makes sense by itself. It expresses a complete thought.
Michael bought a new computer. (One independent clause) Michael bought a new computer, but he still has the old one. [Two independent clauses (Coordinating conjunctions don't count as part of the clause.)]
Although he still has his old one, Michael now has a new computer. (Only the second clause is independent.)
A dependent clause (or subordinate clause) does not make sense by itself. It does not express a complete thought.
Although he still has his old one. (Without the independent clause, a dependent clause is a sentence fragment.)
A dependent clause usually begins with a subordinating conjunction, a relative pronoun, or some other word that causes it to become dependent. A dependent clause will make sense only when attached to an independent clause.
Although he still has his old one. (Although is a subordinating conjunction.)
He still has his old one. (Without the conjunction, the clause becomes independent.)
Michael now has a new computer although he still has his old one. (Combined with an independent clause, the dependent clause makes sense.)
Dependent clauses can come after, before, or in the middle of the independent clause.
Michael now has a new computer although he still has his old one. (Dependent clause after an independent clause) Although he still has his old one, Michael now has a new computer. (Dependent clause before the independent clause)
Michael, although he still has his old one, now has a new computer. (Dependent clause inside the independent clause)
Practice What You've Learned
Decide whether each group of words is a clause or not a clause.
Because we left early clause/not a clause
Under the bed or in the closet clause/not a clause
Michael wasn't listening in class today clause/not a clause
The castle looking over the valley clause/not a clause
Four bald eagles soared over the river clause/not a clause
After it had finished raining clause/not a clause
With Anthony and Jesse and all their friends clause/not a clause
When my new sneakers get dirty clause/not a clause
Because of the weeds in the backyard clause/not a clause
Listening to my new album on my phone clause/not a clause
Decide if each clause is independent or dependent.
Every year, the elephants cross the desert in search of water independent/dependent
While we were listening to the concert independent/dependent
One car seemed to go much faster than the other independent/dependent
Which proves that theory wrong independent/dependent
When my dog finally stopped barking independent/dependent
The red panda hid among the leaves and took a nap independent/dependent
After I finish cleaning the kitchen independent/dependent
The stoplight barely lit the intersection independent/dependent
That pizza looks delicious independent/dependent
That I found for a great price at a thrift shop independent/dependent