If I write

My car can go pretty far and it gets good mileage

I have combined two independent clauses to create a compound sentence. I might just as easily write

My car can go pretty far. And it gets good mileage.

But if I write

Surprisingly, my car can go pretty far and it gets good mileage,

meaning that it is a surprise my car has both of these attributes, then the independence of each clause seems diminished, because one without the other is not surprising. In other words, I cannot write

Surprisingly, my car can go pretty far. And it gets good mileage.

Is there a way to describe this difference? Is there an overriding term for two or more independent clauses that actually do not mean the same thing when not joined?

  • 4
    Surprisingness is not how independent clauses are determined. Independent clauses are those that do not have a relation of syntactic dependency, and that is a matter of form, not meaning. Dependent clauses can perform as nouns (subject or object), adjectives (modifying nouns), or adverbs (modifying whole phrases and clauses). You're confusing grammar with meaning; grammar is mindless and automatic, while meaning is conscious and very subtle. May 3, 2014 at 0:12
  • I don't get it. If meaning and grammar are different, what do mean by essential and nonessential clauses? This is a grammatical distinction that addresses meaning.
    – user66965
    May 3, 2014 at 0:23
  • 4
    "Essential and nonessential clauses" are names, not definitions. Grammar does have to do with meaning, but one does not define grammar using meaning -- that would be circular, and one would only find what one expects to find. Instead, one defines grammar using grammatical criteria (agreement, transformations, etc) that apply in every case. And, independently, one defines meaning using semantic criteria (predicate, modality, etc). Then one notes how they correlate; that is how grammar applies to meaning. May 3, 2014 at 0:39
  • 2
    By the bye, if you want to combine the thoughts into one "surprising" event, you need to use a compound predicate, "Surprisingly, my car can go pretty far and gets good mileage." Now you have one independent clause with two predicates; "[my car] goes... and gets... May 3, 2014 at 1:27
  • 3
    In that case, the and would be stressed, to indicate the scope of the surprisingness. May 3, 2014 at 2:33

2 Answers 2


Perhaps, you should have chosen a better example. Anyways.

Surprisingly, my car can go pretty far and it gets good mileage.

That is semantically incorrect (fails to make proper sense.) Here's why:

Surprisingly, my car can go pretty far and still (give) good mileage.
Surprisingly, my car can go pretty far and also (give) good mileage.

It is the sentence as a whole, not either of the clauses that takes the attributive surprisingly, so there's a coherence required between the clauses. Independent clauses stand apart, instead.

Check this: The verb agrees in number with can, not the nearer verb.

In speech and in informal writing, one could get away with anything, though.


ExSum: Turns out I was merely restating Prof. Lawler's comment in essence.


Your problem:

You want to show surprise over two events:

"Surprisingly, my car goes pretty far."

"Surprisingly, my car gets good mileage."

But when you form a compound sentence with one "surprisingly", it only appears to modify whichever thought you place first.

This is because "surprisingly" is no longer attached to both thoughts.


(1) The fact that the car "goes far" is not actually a surprising event, but just a secondary idea that you are attempting to fill in with the ACTUAL surprising event: "Surprisingly, my car gets good mileage [when I drive long distances]." I have now subordinated the secondary thought as a dependent (adverb) clause.

(2) You could show surprise in both independent clauses: "Surprisingly, my car can go pretty far, and [(also surprisingly,) (just as surprisingly,) (even more surprisingly)(etc...)] it gets good mileage." Now both of your independent clauses show your surprise.

(3) The easiest solution, keeping it as close to the original as possible, to show surprise about both events is to simply state both actions that your car performs to surprise you in one independent clause modified by the adverb 'surprisingly': "Surprisingly, my car can go pretty far and gets good mileage." Now one "surprisingly" modifies both verbs.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.