Identifying and Correcting Clause Errors

Video Lesson on Identifying and Correcting Clause Errors

This lesson explores clause errors on the SAT. We'll start with a refresher on what clauses are and the different types of clauses. Then, we'll move on to different types of clause errors normally appear on the SAT and how to correct them.

What Are Clauses?

You might not know what clauses are, but you use them every time you talk. A clause is a group of words including a subject performing the action of a verb.

Independent Clause

An independent clause is a clause that could stand alone as a sentence. An independent clause expresses a complete thought.

Dependent Clause

A dependent clause is a clause that could not stand alone as a sentence. A dependent clause doesn't express a complete thought.

You can change an independent clause into a dependent clause by adding a subordinating conjunction.

A subordinating conjunction is a word that implies there's more to the thought than just this one clause.

In this lesson, you'll take a look at some common clause errors and how to solve them, including punctuation errors, joining to clauses together, and arranging clauses in parallel structure.

Punctuating Clauses

When you connect two clauses, it's important to use the correct punctuation. To connect two independent, clauses you have two choices. First, you could use a semicolon or a period to directly connect the two clauses. Alternately, you could use a comma with a coordinating conjunction.

Coordinating Conjunction

A coordinating conjunction joins two independent clauses.

There are seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, not, but, or, yet, so.

You can remember them with the acronym 'fanboys'. To connect an independent to a dependent clause, or two dependent clauses, use a comma. Take a look at some examples of clause punctuation errors:

Akbar married Zeb un Nisa, she was the daughter of Revolutionary War hero Amir ud Din.

What's wrong with this? Let's start by identifying both clauses. 'Akbar married Zeb un Nisa' is a complete thought, so it's an independent clause. 'She was the daughter of Revolutionary War hero Amir ud Din' is also a complete thought. So, it's also an independent clause. Here we have two independent clauses, but they're joined with a comma. No good. This is called a comma splice. To fix this, we could replace the comma with a semicolon or a period, add a coordinating conjunction to connect the two independent clauses or change one of the independent clauses to a dependent clause. Either is fine.

How about another one:

When Arifa eloped with her husband a year into the Revolutionary War her family was surprised but wished the new couple all the best.

What's wrong with this one? Here we don't have any punctuation where we need it. 'When Arifa eloped with her husband a year into the Revolutionary War' is a dependent clause. This isn't a complete thought because it leaves you waiting to see what happened. 'Her family was surprised but wished the new couple all the best' is a complete thought, so this is an independent clause. Here we're connecting a dependent to an independent clause, so we'd want a comma to separate the clauses and break up the sentence a little.

Parallel Causes

Another type of clause error you might come across is parallelism problems. Parallelism means that items in a list should be structured the same way. Parallel structure is typically easier to read, so use it when you can.

Here's an example:

I did everything to find him. I traveled all over the world; I sent messages to all his friends; because I even hired a private detective to track him down.

Here we have another interrupted parallel structure. This time the clauses are independent clauses: 'I traveled', 'I sent messages', 'because I even hired'. The third in the series violates the parallelism because it is a dependent clause. It also creates a punctuation error because you can't join a dependent clause to an independent clause with a semicolon. You could fix this by changing it to an independent clause:

I did everything to find him. I traveled all over the world; I sent messages to all his friends; I even hired a private detective to track him down.

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