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  What's a main clause?

The 'what' = the main clause

So, let's look again at what Rob referred to as the 'what' of a sentence. In grammar terms, this is called the main (or independent) clause. It's the part of the sentence that can stand alone and make sense: it could be a complete sentence in itself. In Rob's example, this part was we are sorry to inform you that your order has been delayed.

You can see this bit expresses a complete thought – it doesn't leave unanswered questions.

But what if you look at the other part of Rob's sentence on its own? Owing to the fact that we have been experiencing severe difficulties with our suppliers, coupled with industrial action by postal staff… Well, that certainly leaves a question. Owing to those things … what? This bit of the sentence can't stand alone.

By the way, you'll remember that Rob called that part the 'why'. In fact, the part of the sentence that can't stand on its own might tell you something other than 'why'. We'll talk more about that in another lesson.

What comes first

So, let's put everything into the best order now, with the 'what' first:

We are sorry to inform you that your order has been delayed because we have been experiencing severe difficulties with our suppliers, coupled with industrial action by postal staff.

Better, isn't it? OK, it still may not be good news for the reader, but at least their life isn't made even harder because the sentence is difficult to read.

Now, it's time to tackle today's exercise. Click 'Complete and continue ➜'.