6/20/09
The Printable KISS Workbooks KISS Level 3.1.1
Main Clauses
Claude Monet's 
(1840-1926) 
  The Stroll
Camille Monet 
and Her Son Jean
(Woman with a Parasol)
1875

     Thus far you have been working with sentences and have learned to identify the "subject / (finite) verb / complement patterns" in them. You have also learned that adjectives, adverbs, and most prepositional phrases modify (and thus chunk to) the words in the S/V/C slots. You have probably noticed that many sentences have more than one S/V/C pattern. To be able to discuss these multiple patterns in a sentence, we need to distinguish between "sentence" and "clause."

What Is a Clause?

     A "clause" is a subject, finite verb, complement pattern and all the words that chunk to it. 

Because you can already identify S/V/C patterns and distinguish finite verbs from verbals, you will probably find clauses easy to understand. There are two types of clauses, main and subordinate.

Main Clauses

     Every main clause could be punctuated as a separate sentence, but just as we compound subjects, verbs, etc., we also compound main clauses. Thus you will often find more than one main clause in a sentence. Although short main clauses can be combined with commas (I came, I saw, I conquered.), most main clauses are joined together with the following punctuation:
 

, and
 
He went swimming, and she went fishing.
 
, or 
 
Tom went to the lake, or he went home.
 
, but
 
Sarah arrived late, but she had her homework done.
 
[Note that some writers omit the comma, but you probably should not do so until you are an established writer. (Some teachers don't like the missing commas.)]
 
a semicolon
 
Gary loved football; Sam preferred golf.
 
a colon
 
It was early: the clock had not even struck six a.m.
 
a dash
 
Toni loves football -- she watches the Redskins' game every Sunday.

The differences in these punctuation marks are explored in KISS Level 3.1.1 ("Main Clauses"). They will also be explored in later sections on style and logic. For now, all you need to remember is that when a clause begins with one of them, you are probably dealing with compound main clauses.