Diagramming conjoined clauses

A compound sentence is two independent clauses (complete sentences) joined by coordinating conjunction. Independent clauses that are joined together (conjoined) are linked in diagrams by a dotted line. You might want to think of this line as a kind of chain. The conjunction, the word that works grammatically to join the clauses, can be considered a kind of clasp that holds the two chains together:

Louise washed the dishes and Cuthbert dried them.

Complex sentences, which consist of an independent clause plus one or more dependent clauses, are also diagramed this way:

Louise washed the dishes while Cuthbert watched.

In diagraming compound and complex sentences, it's conventional (probably for aesthetic reasons) to attach the chain at the VPs. When the dependent clause is an adverbial subordinate clause, it is necessary to attach the chain at the VP of the main clause, since you are showing that the subordinate clause modifies the verb.

Similarly, an elliptical clause is attached to the main clause. Comparatives are a common type of elliptical clause and can be treated as adverbial clauses:

Wulfstan is taller than Alfred.

Conjunctive adverbs, like regular conjunctions, can also join clauses. Like adverbs, however, they modify the verb, and they are somewhat movable:

Cuthbert remembered the homework; I, however, forgot it.
Cuthbert remembered the homework; however, I forgot it.
Cuthbert remembered the homework; I forgot it, however.
Cuthbert remembered the homework. However, I forgot it.

Note that conjunctive adverbs (with the exceptions of yet and so ) are normally considered coordinating conjunctions. A sentence like the following, in which the conjunctive adverb however is joined to the first clause by a comma, is technically a comma splice.

Cuthbert remembered the homework, however, I forgot it.


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Comments to: Sara Kimball
Last updated January, 2001