His features contort with obvious pain as he tells his story, his memories of Caroline clearly something he holds precious.

What makes the bolded section dependent? What's it missing to form a clause. Is it a type of supplemental clause.?

  • A "dependent clause" is one which could not stand by itself as a sentence, usually because it doesn't contain a main verb. It is "dependent" on its main clause.
    – WS2
    Oct 4, 2018 at 11:38
  • It would still be a "dependent clause" if we added a preposition and verb: with his memories of Caroline clearly being something he holds precious. Or it could potentially be converted into a standalone sentence with an "active" main verb: His memories of Caroline are clearly something he holds precious. Oct 4, 2018 at 12:20
  • @FumbleFingers Active - or passive - main verb. To be a sentence it needs an "indicative" verb - indicative mood, active OR passive voice. My more than 60-year-old studies of Latin still inform my thinking on these matters!
    – WS2
    Oct 4, 2018 at 12:26
  • @WS2: I stand corrected. In my defence, it wasn't quite 60 years ago when I did Latin (barely 50, in fact) - but I only had at most two separate 1-hour "after school" sessions anyway. To the best of my recollection there were only 3 of us who signed up and stayed after school for the first session of this "supplementary tuition" offered by an enthusiastic trainee teacher. A week later I was the only one who turned up at all - I can't remember if it was me, the teacher, or both who decided to call it a day, nor can I remember if I ever actually had the second lesson at all! :) Oct 4, 2018 at 12:59
  • ...but even though I couldn't call to mind the designation "indicative" verb in my first comment, I did know enough to suspect "active" wasn't the right term. So the implication of my quote marks was this probably isn't the right technical term, but hopefully you get what I mean. Oct 4, 2018 at 13:01

1 Answer 1


The dependent clause is not a clause at all. The subject of the phrase is not taking any action. To consider if something is a clause, try to separate it out from the rest of the sentence and see if it makes sense as a sentence. "His memories of Caroline clearly something he holds precious," doesn't make any sense because the phrase contains an apparent subject "memories" but lacks a verb.

Rather, the part after the comma is just a plain old phrase and serves to elaborate on the sentence's primary clause. This construction is relatively uncommon in English. Consider similar sentences like, "He crept, afraid that his pursuers may spot him, to the place he had been told was safe," or, "Fed up with their behavior, she slammed the encyclopedia down on the table." These two sentences use a phrase for elaboration in the same way as your example sentence, though both place the elaborating phrase in different places of the sentence than your example.

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