Clauses

Clauses in Spanish
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Cláusulas

A clause is a grammatical unit of meaning containing, at minimum, a subject and verb. There are three different types of clauses.

Independent clauses – Cláusulas independientes

An independent clause stands alone: it is either a complete sentence or is attached to another independent clause with a coordinating conjunction. As the name indicates, independent clauses, highlighted here in orange, are not dependent upon other clauses, and no other clauses are dependent upon them.

Por ejemplo…

Papá Noel está revisando la lista.   Santa Claus is checking the list.
Me he ido.   I left.
El libro está sobre la mesa.   The book is on the table.
No he comido y tengo hambre.   I haven’t eaten and I’m hungry.
Está lista entonces podemos empezar.   She’s ready so we can start.

Main clauses – Cláusulas principales

A main clause is somewhat similar to an independent clause: normally it could stand alone, but there’s a subordinating conjunction or relative pronoun attaching it to a subordinate clause. If you say just the green part, you still have a grammatically correct sentence, but the additional meaning or clarification provided by the subordinate clause is missing.

Por ejemplo…

Papá Noel está comprobando la lista que hizo.   Santa Claus is checking the list (that) he made.
Me fui cuando llamó.   I left when he called.
El libro que me prestaste está sobre la mesa.   The book you loaned me is on the table.
Tengo hambre porque no he comido.   I’m hungry because I haven’t eaten.
Si está lista, podemos empezar.   If she’s ready, we can start.

Subordinate clauses – Cláusulas subordinadas

A subordinate clause, also called a dependent clause, is just the opposite: it can’t stand alone because it begins with a subordinating conjunction or relative pronoun that attaches it to a main clause. If you say just the purple part, you can immediately tell that essential grammar and information, contained in the main clause, are missing.

Por ejemplo…

Papá Noel está comprobando la lista que hizo.   Santa Claus is checking the list (that) he made.
Me fui cuando me llamó.   I left when he called.
El libro que me prestaste está sobre la mesa.   The book you loaned me is on the table.
Tengo hambre porque no he comido.   I’m hungry because I haven’t eaten.
Si está lista, podemos empezar.   If she’s ready, we can start.

 Subcategory: When a subordinate clause begins with a relative pronoun, it is also known as a relative clause or dependent clause.

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Types of Spanish clauses

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