Principal = Independent, Subordinate = Dependent

Last updated: May 31, 2018 at 6:36 am

sentence photoThe two broadest categories of clauses are:

  1. Principal Clauses
  2. Subordinate Clauses

Before going further into the study of clauses, it is important to clear up some associated terminology. These words may be used interchangeable when talking about clauses:

  1. Principal = Independent
  2. Subordinate = Dependent

A principal clause and an independent clause refer to the same type of clause. A principal clause is complete in its meaning, and does not depend on another clause to complete its meaning. Since a principal clause does “not depend” on another clause, it is also called an “independent clause.”

A subordinate clause is not complete it meaning. A subordinate clause “depends” on a principal clause to complete its meaning. Since a subordinate clause “depends” on a principal clause, it may also be called a “dependent clause.”

You may often read in your studies of the clause “a principal clause” and then later in the same chapter or paragraph, “an independent clause” when referring to the same clause of type of clause.

Remember that “principal clause = independent clause” and “subordinate clause=dependent clause.”

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