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Grammatik auf Englisch - Reine Formsache: Teil II

Schlagwörter: Grammatik auf Englisch, Englisch Grammatik, Englische Grammatik, Englisch Grammar, Gramatik auf Englisch, Englisch Gramatik, Englische Gramatik, Englisch Grammar, Reine Formsache

Last month we started a two-parter on writing style. Here’s the second part. This month, we focus on the subtle but important art of punctuating clauses. This is one of the trickiest points in English, so it requires attention.

Independent and dependent clauses

A dependant clause, which consists of a noun and a verb, cannot stand alone in a sentence because it relies on information introduced in another part of the sentence to make sense. Example:

My house plants died because I forgot to water them.
I forgot to water them,
if it would stand alone, would raise the question ‘Forgot to water what?’

Conversely, an independent clause, which also consists of a noun and a verb, can stand alone:

Mary prepared for her presentation in her office, and her assistant helped by making copies.

The clause after the and is independent because it can stand alone:

Mary prepared for her presentation in her office. Her assistant helped by making copies.

In this case it is no longer an independent clause, but a complete sentence.
Here’s another example:

The situation is tense, but there is hope for a happy end.
The situation is tense. There is hope for a happy end.


The reason this distinction is important is that it can help you avoid using commas in the incorrect place or leaving them out when they are required.
It is incorrect, for example, to splice together two independent clauses using a comma without a coordinating conjunction.

Incorrect:
I like this seminar series, it is very interesting.

Because the two parts are independent clauses, you have these choices:

Separate with a comma and a conjunction
I like this seminar series, and it is very interesting.

Separate with a full stop
I like this seminar series. It is very interesting.

Separate with a semi-colon
I like this seminar series; it is very interesting.

Precede the second independent clause with a dependent marker word that changes it into a dependent clause
I like this seminar series because it is very interesting.


Dependent marker words worth noting are after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order to, since, though, unless, until, whatever, when, whenever, whether, and while.

Each of these options yields a different feeling:

Separating with a full stop eliminates the feeling of a relationship between the two clauses.

Separating with a semi-colon is a strong and forceful way to strengthen the relationship between the two clauses — but the two clauses must be related in some way or the semi-colon is incorrect.

Separating with a comma and conjunction flows well, but adds an extra word, making the resulting sentence feel weaker. The same is true of using a dependent marker word.


Two no-nos
One thing you should never do is combine two independent clauses without any punctuation or extra wording whatsoever.

Incorrect:
I like this seminar series it is very interesting.

Another common failure is to use a dependent marker word at the beginning of an independent clause and let the result stand alone:

Incorrect:
Because it is very interesting.

The wonderful semi-colon
For no good reason, the semi-colon seems to be the most-feared punctuation on Earth. Although it is the least tricky variation to use, most people tend to use ( and make errors with ) commas. When joining two independent clauses, the best approach is to give preference to the semi-colon; it results in the shortest, clearest, and most forceful sentences. You can detect this strength in the pause between the clauses:

I like this seminar series. ( pause ) It is very interesting.
I like this seminar series; ( slight pause, with motion into the next clause ) it is very interesting.


Note that if you have a sentence where you would normally use a semi-colon between two independent clauses, and before the second clause you wish to use an adverb like accordingly, besides, then, therefore, or thus, you still need the semi-colon:

The tradeshow doesn’t look very promising; besides, we’re fully booked at the moment.

Making changes to your website’s programming can cause big problems; therefore, you should not do it.


A colon might be better
There is one situation when you should use a colon to join two independent clauses instead of a semi-colon: when the second clause interprets, illustrates, or amplifies the first. You can only do this when no conjunction is used to join the clauses.

I like to read: crime thrillers are my favourites.

There is a reason for our refusal: you have not submitted the necessary documents.


With this usage, the word following the colon is not capitalized. However, if two independent clauses follow the colon and the second is a separate sentence, then the first word of each independent clause after the colon should be capitalized:

No-name printer cartridges are an excellent choice: They cost much less. They also last just as long.

Schlagwörter: Grammatik auf Englisch, Englisch Grammatik, Englische Grammatik, Englisch Grammar, Gramatik auf Englisch, Englisch Gramatik, Englische Gramatik, Englisch Grammar, Reine Formsache

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