I'm trying to determine whether a clause with an implied subject can be considered independent - specifically in the case of compound sentences.

For example: "I was tired, but went to the party anyway."

To my thinking, the second clause is an independent clause because the reiterated "I" is implied, but I can't find much to back this up. Thoughts?

  • 1
    This is of course a bit different from your example, but imperative clauses are definitely independent clauses that have, mandatorily, a null subject. Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 10:21
  • 3
    Traditionally, you would not write that comma (although I agree it often looks better or easier to parse if you do add one). You would either write I was tired but went to the party anyway or I was tired, but I went to the party anyway. Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 19:02
  • Note that the second "clause" in your example is went to the party anyway (the conjunction but isn't part of either clause). And since went to the party anyway isn't a valid sentence, it's probably not helpful to call it an independent clause. It's just a "sentence fragment" that can only be valid in contexts where preceding text unambiguously specifies the missing ("deleted") subject. Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 15:28

8 Answers 8


Bill J puts it clearly (I admit I've tidied a bit):

‘They have appeared on message boards and in blogs, and have been spread by word of mouth’.


Concerning your question about the conjoining of clauses: although ... the second clause above may seem dependent because it appears to have no subject, that’s not actually the case. ‘They’ is the subject of both clauses, but it is left out of the second clause because it would otherwise repeat what has been said in the first clause. This process is called ellipsis. [Both] the clauses [here] are independent. Bill J

As usual, accepted terminology can hide some of the facts. You'd never say 'I went to the party anyway' without previous context showing that this was a rather unexpected course of action. 'I went to the party', yes. So 'independent' is perhaps a not totally accurate label here. However, it's the accepted one, and addresses the syntactic structure rather than the semantics involved.

The usual term for what follows the subject in a sentence where a single subject does double duty for two independent clauses joined by a conjunction is a compound predicate:

  • We finished our drinks and left the pub.
  • I like aubergines but dislike tomatoes.
  • On Thursdays, they go to the cinema or watch television.

I'm trying to determine whether a clause with an implied subject can be considered independent - specifically in the case of compound sentences.

For example:

  • "I was tired, but went to the party anyway."

To my thinking, the second clause is an independent clause because the reiterated "I" is implied, but I can't find much to back this up. Thoughts?


Your example sentence is not a compound sentence, nor is the 2nd clause an independent clause.

A compound sentence consists of two or more independent clauses. Your example only has one independent clause. Your example has a compound verb phrase or it can be seen as a coordination of verb phrases. The two verb phrases are: "was tired", "went to the party anyway".

An independent clause can stand on its own as an independent sentence. Your expression "but went to the party anyway" cannot do that. (Well, not without surrounding context being understood and the use of ellipsis.)

EDITED: Here are examples of compound sentences with two independent clauses:

  • "I was tired, but I went to the party anyway."

  • "Get off the grass and go home!"

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the point @Marie is making (as noted in the other answer linking to the explanation given by "Bill J")? "I was tired" and "I went to the party anyway" are independent clauses, but the "I" subject for the second clause is elided. The second clause can stand as an independent sentence, provided the elided subject is reintroduced: "I was tired." "I went to the party anyway."
    – Dion
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 18:45

I feel like this is a stylistic choice. Commenters seem to be getting hung up on the OPs sentence and the use of the word "anyway," vs. the actual question at hand. If we replace that example with dozens of others, the question posed remains, and I believe is still valid.

"I smiled at myself, and walked over to her mini fridge to grab a water."

Clause one. I smiled at myself. This is an independent clause for sure.

Clause two. (I) walked over to her mini fridge to grab a water. With the implied subject "I," this is also an independent clause. In speech, a slight pause would happen between "myself" and "and." If the subject was repeated after the and, there would be two inarguably independent clauses and the comma would be required, but the sentence would sound clunky.

"I smiled at myself, and I walked over to her mini fridge to grab a water."

You can get away without the comma, but if you're reading this to someone or reciting it out loud, I believe a pause would happen there naturally, and therefore be indicative of a comma.


Hmmmm, I'm not sure that I agree, but I am no expert here. To my way of thinking, the compound element, in both sentences above, is a compound verb:

"I was tired, but went..." (the comma here would be used to signify contradiction or opposition, but not a compound sentence)

"they have appeared... and have been spread." (here, if a comma is needed at all, it is only to make more visible the second coordinate element because the word "and" was included in the first one.)

The purpose of parallelism is to reduce repetition and strengthen otherwise flabby writing, and that might mean making compound sentences simple ones.That ellipsis is what makes these sentences non-compound, I believe.


The last post is correct. In order to be considered (and perhaps "classified" would be a better term) independent, there must be a subject and verb present in the clause, and the clause must express a complete thought. The first example above is not a compound sentence structure combining independent clauses; it is an independent clause with a subject and two verbs (S+V+V). Properly considered, the comma is a punctuation error.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. This site does not work in the same way as a forum. The answer section is for answering the question, not commenting on other posts. Please take time to read the tour section located above under the help tab. I believe there is an answer here, so I'm not flagging it. But, knee jerk would be to flag this as not an answer.
    – David M
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 20:32
  • Also, the claim that the comma is a punctuation error is wrong.
    – virmaior
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 20:34

In this case, and in most other cases like this, the presence of the comma is inappropriate because the coordinating conjunction "but" is just linking the parts of the compound predicate. Thus classifying the second part of the predicate "went to..." as an independent clause is incorrect. Implied subjects are rare, except in the imperative form.


I agree with you completely. The sentence consists of two independent clauses, both with the subject "I". The subject is explicit in the first independent clause and implicit in the second.

As an aside, I would describe a sentence with two imperative independent clauses as both clauses as both having the implied subject "you" rather than a null subject.

(I'm almost sure these come from Warriner's English grammar and composition. Full disclosure: my comments are based on my reading of the 1973 version.)


I pulled this from https://walton.uark.edu/business-communication-lab/Resources/downloads/compound_sentences_L.pdf and article from University of Arkansas. I think this clarifies it for me.

"Sentence B: Incorrect comma usage: John ran to the store, but walked home. Are both clauses able to stand alone? John ran to the store can stand alone. Walked home cannot stand alone. This sentence has two of the elements—one independent clause and the coordinating conjunction— but lacks one of the key elements. Walked home is not an independent clause; therefore, you will not use a comma in a sentence like this one. In this sentence, John, the subject, performs the actions ran and walked. These two actions, ran and walked, are compound verbs. If you place a comma before the coordinating conjunction, you will have separated the subject, John, from its second verb, walked, and subjects and verbs cannot be separated by only one comma."

Hope this helps!

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