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I’m aware that complex sentences show specific relationships between clauses, but I'm a bit confused with some of these relationships. For example, what is the difference in meaning between the following pair of examples?

  1. I was happy because I ate dinner.

  2. Because I ate dinner, I was happy.

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    There is no difference between the examples in terms of meaning. They both mean the same thing. The adverbial clause because I ate dinner can appear either before or after the clause it modifies (it's an adverb, like yesterday or in bed, which work the same way). Which choice to make is up to the speaker, and normally has nothing to do with the meaning. Sep 3 '16 at 16:47
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    I take "because" to be a preposition so "because I ate dinner" is a PP, not a clause. But it makes no difference to the answer to your question which is that there is no difference in meaning. In case you're interested, the function of the expression "because I ate dinner" is a reason adjunct. It gives the reason you were happy, obviously!
    – BillJ
    Sep 3 '16 at 17:22
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    – tchrist
    Sep 3 '16 at 17:49
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@JohnLawler's comment:

There is no difference between the examples in terms of meaning. They both mean the same thing. The adverbial clause because I ate dinner can appear either before or after the clause it modifies (it's an adverb, like yesterday or in bed, which work the same way).

Which choice to make is up to the speaker, and normally has nothing to do with the meaning.

@BillJ's comment:

...In case you're interested, the function of the expression "because I ate dinner" is a reason adjunct. It gives the reason you were happy, obviously!

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Simple answer, there is no difference in meaning.

The logical relationship between the two clauses is preserved. All you did was swap the order.

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    And why is that so?
    – NVZ
    Sep 4 '16 at 9:58
  • @NVZ - I added a reason. Sep 4 '16 at 12:19
  • That is fine, and even better would be to add references to support your answer. :)
    – NVZ
    Sep 4 '16 at 12:21
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They do mean the same thing; when you move the dependent clause from the back to the front of the sentence, it takes a comma, because it's an adverb dependent clause. Not all the time with the comma; just most of the time.

I understand where you are coming from, though you need to know about the different types of dependent clauses. And you need to know that certain parts of speech are used in these clauses, like relative pronouns: that, which, who, whom, etc. and subordinating conjunctions like after, when, until, etc.

  • I was happy because I ate dinner. (the food made you happy)

  • When I ate dinner, I was happy. (at the time you ate dinner you were happy)

  • I was happy while I ate dinner. (During dinner you were happy)

and so forth.

This is some basic stuff that covers the three subordinate (dependent) clauses: the adjective clause, adverb clause, and noun clause

http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/adjectiveclause.htm
http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/adverbclause.htm
http://www.k12reader.com/term/noun-clause/

This covers a lot:

http://www.k12reader.com/term/clause-overview/

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    I'm sure that Jerry and Leanne (k12reader) and Robin (chompchomp) are lovely people, but I'm not sure I'd regard them as reliable guides to modern English grammar, where (as BillJ points out), because is a conjunctive preposition, making because I ate dinner a prepositional phrase, not a clause. The basic answer to the OP is that in English adverbial adjuncts are generally free to move. After I ate dinner and After dinner can appear fore and aft, and for the same reason.
    – deadrat
    Sep 3 '16 at 18:20
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    This is a soi-disant site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. As far as it falls from that ideal, answers should still cite sources by experts. If people asking questions could decide for themselves, then they wouldn't be asking those questions here. I have added my view that your sources are not dispositive and that your answer is in some part misleading. I don't see how profiles and congeniality are relevant. I am the last thing from the site police, so you're free to heed or disregard my criticism as you will.
    – deadrat
    Sep 3 '16 at 18:45
  • Well said @deadrat . The sources quoted in this answer are not scholarly, far from it in fact, and hardly suitable for ELU.
    – user164312
    Sep 3 '16 at 19:17

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