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chapter 5.3 Embedded Thoughts: Recognizing Dependent Clauses

Any clause introduced by a dependent word has been deprived of its independence and can function only by playing a role in a larger sentence.

A dependent word does two things: it turns an independent clause into a dependent clause, and it defines a role for that clause to play within a larger sentence:

Zora Neal Hurston was writing during the Harlem Renaissance.
She may not have realized something.
Her novel about Janie Starks would become an American classic.
The addition of dependent words to the first and last sentences above turns them into dependent clauses (see below). The dependent words will also define the roles that the two newly dependent clauses play in a larger sentence:
{While* Zora Neale Hurston was writing during the Harlem Renaissance}, she may not have realized {that* her novel about Janie Starks would become an American classic}.
The independent clause of this new sentence is "she may not have realized." It could stand alone as a sentence if you wanted it to, but you might ask "She may not have realized what?" The answer would be a completer: "{that* her novel about Janie Starks would become an American classic}." And you might ask "When didn't she realize this?" The answer would be a modifier: "{While* Zora Neale Hurston was writing during the Harlem Renaissance}." Both the completer and the modifier are clauses (they each contain a subject and verb and related words), but they begin with dependent words, so they can't stand alone; they must be embedded in a larger sentence which includes an independent clause.

You can think of an embedded clause as a unit within another sentence, a unit that acts in the same way that a single word might act when it plays a role in a sentence:

Eden understands my thoughts. (Subject, verb, noun completer)
Eden understands {how I think}. (Subject, verb, clause completer)

She'll come tonight. (Subject, verb, single-word modifier)
She'll come {before I even call}. (Subject, verb, clause modifier)

pencil Application 2     pencil Application 3
Often several dependent clauses may be embedded in a single sentence.

{After Jan earned eight days of vacation time}, she took her handicapped nephew to Cinnamon Bay {because he loved to swim}. (modifiers, "When?" and "Why?")

{When evening came}, she would cook {whatever he wanted} on the little camp stove {that came with their rented tent}. (two modifiers, "When?" and "Which?", and one completer, "She would cook what?")

pencil Application 4     pencil Application 5
Because a dependent clause contains a subject and a verb, it may look like a sentence. Sometimes a dependent clause is even longer than the independent clause in which it is embedded. A dependent clause, though, is not able to stand alone as a sentence.

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