Building Blocks of English: Part III

Yesterday, I discussed the importance of being able to, and knowing when to, combine and separate independent clauses.  Usually, it’s obvious when two independent clauses need to stand alone as unique sentences, but people will still try either to pack too much into one sentence or to use too many sentences (and words) when they can combine and economize.

Today, I’m just going to give rules, five of them, for combining and separating independent clauses (see yesterday’s post for a definition and examples), without going into detail about the sins and abuses I mentioned in the first paragraph.

Herewith are the five methods/rules (examples are provided below the explanations):

  1. It’s the period, stupid.  Just add a period at the end of the independent clause to make it into a sentence.  Thus it becomes separate from any other sentence or independent clause.
  2. It’s the semi-colon, stupid.  When two independent clauses are related in meaning, combine and connect them with a semi-colon (;) in between.
  3. It’s the conjunction, stupid.  Think FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so), the seven coordinating conjunctions in English.  Using one of these preceded by a comma will nicely join two independent clauses.
  4. It’s the conjunctive adverb, stupid.  This is really a combination of two and three above.  A conjunctive adverb is a wonderful thing and comes in many forms: therefore, however, as a result, accordingly, and so on.  To combine two independent clauses with one of these, you use it like a coordinating conjunction, but instead of a preceding comma, you use a semi-colon.  If the adverb is more than one syllable, you also must use a comma following it.
  5. It’s the dependency, stupid.  Take one of the two independent clauses and make it dependent on the other one.  Dependency words such when, since, because and many others will turn the trick here.

Now, for some examples.  Here are two independent clauses:

today is Monday

we are studying English grammar

Here are illustrations of how the above five rules/methods work:

  1. Today is Monday.  We are studying English grammar.
  2. Today is Monday; we are studying English grammar.
  3. Today is Monday, so we are studying English grammar.
  4. Today is Monday; therefore, we are studying English grammar.
  5. Since today is Monday, we are studying English grammar. (Or the reversed form: We are studying English grammar because today is Monday.)

(The stupid reference in my explanations comes from a saying in the 1992 presidential election in the U.S.  It doesn’t refer to any reader’s mental ability.)

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