Dependent Versus Subordinate; Independent Versus Principal

Last updated: October 28, 2018 at 23:31 pm
sun photo

We depend on the sun for survival, but the sun is independent of us. In the same way, a dependent clause depends on the independent clause to complete its meaning, but the independent clause already has a complete meaning by itself.

When teaching types of clauses, and a few other topics, in English Language, I have the option of using one of two interchangeable words.

I can say that a clause is a principal clause if it makes sense by itself. I can also say that the clause is “independent.”

So, principal = independent.

On the other hand, I can say that a clause is subordinate if it relies on the principal clause to complete its meaning. I can also say that the clause is “dependent.”

So, subordinate = dependent.

Principal = independent; Subordinate = dependent.

Therefore, I have two choice of words when teaching the two main types of clauses:

  1. Principal or independent
  2. Subordinate or dependent

The words are completely interchangeable. That is, when teaching, I can use one or the other, or one then the other, being sure to explain that they both mean the same thing.

But should I choose of the options and stick to it throughout? And if so, which one?

For me, personally, it’s easier to explain the concepts of “independence and dependence” than “principality and subordination”…to younger learners that is.

I think it’s better to stick to “independent and dependent” because it’s kinda fun to explain how we’re dependent on the sun. We need the sun to survive. But the sun doesn’t need us. The sun can survive if we all disappeared from the planet.

Therefore, independent clause is like the sun, and the dependent clause is like us humans.

Can you find a better, more fun analogy?

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