I am curious if anyone is aware of a list of different types or categories of independent clauses. By comparison, there are four types of sentences (simple, compound, complex, and compounds complex), and many types of subordinate clauses (comparative clauses, that-clauses, contact clauses, etc.). However, I haven't been able to find a breakdown of different types of independent clause. I'm especially interested in a categorization by structure. For example, some sentences have compound subjects, others have compound predicates, others have the verbs omitted, etc. I have tried on my own, but I fear I'm reinventing the wheel. Your help is certainly appreciated.

  • There is one, or a handful, or a few dozen, or thousands, or infinite, depending how you count them. Consider reading the first few chapters of Chomsky's (1957) Syntactic Structures. The book is said to be a classic. – jlovegren Feb 14 '17 at 4:20

To say "independent clause" is to say "simple sentence".
A clause that stands by itself is a main clause.

There are many different things one can do to a main clause,
but normally independent utterances are classified by pragmatic function:

  • statements (declarative) He closed the door.
  • questions (interrogative) Did he close the door?
  • orders (imperative) Close the door.
  • blessings (benedictive) May this house be safe from tigers
  • curses (maledictive) May you spend eternity rollerskating on cobblestones

The names in parentheses are often called "moods" because Latin (and other ancient languages) had special verb forms for them and gave them these names. The technical term for them is "speech acts", and they're different in pragmatics -- use -- but not really in semantics -- meaning.

That is, there's no real semantic difference between the first three sentences; they refer to the same idea in the same words. The difference is in what the speaker expects the listener to do:
believe the statement, answer the question, or obey the order.


Since an independent clause is a simple sentence, the answer you seek would basically be a list of possible subject structures combined with a list of possible predicate structures1. These lists have not been commonly combined, but studied and categorized separately.

1Wikipedia does not include a link to Carlson's full 1977 paper. Here is one.


Another way of looking at this is as follows: 5 Arrangements of Basic Elements of Independent Clauses

1) Subject + Intransitive Action Verb

2) Subject + Transitive Action Verb + Direct Object

3) Subject + Transitive Action Verb + Indirect Object + Direct Object

4) Subject + Linking Verb (+ Possible ADV or ADV Phrase)

5) Subject + Linking Verb + Subject Complement

*** All could of course have extra phrases or other modifiers, but these are the basic parts

  • There of course could also be compound Subjects or Verbs or Objects. But as far as I can tell, All independent clauses are 1 of these 5. Exceptions are questions where the order of the parts is rearranged and those clauses with implied (you) subject. – nathandessonville Feb 14 '17 at 3:40
  • Hi @nathandessonville, please cite any relevant source(s) to back up this answer. Thanks! – freeling10 Feb 14 '17 at 7:10

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