Congratulations, now that you know how to identify the difference between independent and dependent clauses, most of the hard work is over! To build the long and complex sentences of the ACT, all we need to remember is a couple of rules for joining these different types of clauses. The first thing to remember is that we CANNOT join two D.C.s to make a complete sentence. Our sentence must have at least one I.C. to be complete. Therefore, our most simple clause-joining-situation is putting together a D.C. and an I.C.
When joining a D.C. and an I.C. we simply use a comma. When joining an D.C. and an I.C. we simply use a comma. When joining an I.C. and a D.C. you don’t need to use any punctuation at all!
Below is an example of how the ACT could test our ability to properly join and dependent clause. “After I finish my shopping” is a dependent clause; “I ate pizza, relaxed, and went on VSCO.” is an independent clause. Therefore, to correctly join these clauses all we need is a coma. If you are wondering how all these other punctuations could be used, keep reading and you will find out!
After finishing my shopping: I ate pizza, relaxed, and went on VSCO.
A. NO CHANGE
B. shopping. I ate
C. shopping; I ate
D. shopping, I ate
There are situations where an independent clause could be followed by a dependent clause without a comma. This is rarely tested on the ACT; therefore, unless you are interested don’t worry about this!
Now, we only have one clause joining scenario left: joining two independent clauses. When joining an I.C. and an I.C. we can use a “comma fanboy” (coordinating conjunction), “semi-colon”, or period.The fact that (for the ACT) you can choose between semi-colons, periods, and “comma-fanboys” often can feel confusing. Students frequently ask “…but how do I know if it’s a period or a semicolon?!” The answer to this question is you don’t have to.
On the ACT, the periods, semicolons and, “comma-fanboys” can be used interchangeably. This lack of discrimination between the three aforementioned punctuations leads us to an awesome GRANITE QUICK TRICK™. If your question has more than one of the three “independent clause joining punctuation options” as answers, none of those answers can be correct! The sample question below is a great example of this GRANITE QUICK TRICK™.
GRANITE QUICK TRICK™If your question has more than one of the three “independent clause joining punctuation options” as answers, none of those answers can be correct!
Below is an example of a question where the ACT would test our ability to identify independent clauses and our knowledge of how to join them. Close inspection of the sentence “I went to the bakery and I went walking in the park.” reveals two independent clauses. “I went to the baker.” is an independent clause; “I went walking in the park” is also an independent clause. Since we have two independent clauses we must use one of the three independent clause joiners: period, semi-colon, “comma + fanboy”. As the sentence is written, “and” (a “fanboy”) is present; however, it lacks a comma. “Option B” adds this much-needed comma, correcting the sentence. “Option C” is incorrect for a host of reasons (one of which will be discussed in our appositive section). Finally “Option D” is incorrect because it is using ONLY a comma. You should NEVER try and join two independent clauses with only a comma, this is our dependent and independent joiner.
I went to the bakery and I went walking in the park.
A. NO CHANGE
B. bakery, and I
C. bakery, and, I
D. bakery, I
Congratulations you now know how to work with independent and dependent clauses on the ACT! Identifying independent vs. dependent clauses will make up the majority of the grammar questions on the ACT English section. Still, a couple of the hardest questions on the ACT English test feature colons, appositive phrases, title phrases, and some tricky grammar exceptions. Once you’ve mastered these final grammar rules, you will be well on your way to missing few (if any) grammar questions on the English section!