Is the sentence "Then the staff assembled the units." a dependent or an independent clause?

Well, according to me, since there is subordinate conjunction "Then" in the sentence with no other sentence, so, therefore, it should be a dependent clause. And also it kinda sounds incomplete when we speak out loud. :)

But my book says that its the main clause or independent clause.

Any help would be appreciated.

  • It makes sense by itself. It has subject, The staff; it has verb, assembled and it has predicate, the units, then. So, it is an independent clause. – mama Feb 7 '19 at 19:08
  • Okay... Just one more doubt... Is "Then" subordinate conjunction? – Tony Feb 7 '19 at 19:13
  • Then can be used as a subordinating conjunction: "We ate lunch, then went out to play tennis.* – Robusto Feb 7 '19 at 19:16
  • Please bear in mind that a single simple sentence is one clause and therefore is neither dependent or independent. Then is not a subordinating conjunction there at all. It's an adverb: when they did it. – Lambie Feb 7 '19 at 19:57
  • Single sentences are independent clauses. – mama Feb 7 '19 at 20:10

In this case then is operating as an adverb (Merriam-Webster), denoting that the action in the sentence has occurred at that time or after another action in a sequence:

: at that time

: following next after in order of position, narration, or enumeration : being next in a series

In this case its function as an adverb rather than a conjunction can be tested by changing the position of then to the end of the sentence or other positions. In these cases, the expression is still syntactically valid:

The staff then assembled the units.

The staff assembled the units then.

A subordinate conjunction has to stay in position at the start of its clause. Here's an illustration with because:

The event happened because the staff assembled the units

but not

:( The event happened the staff assembled the units because.

  • Let's say I frame the sentence as "The customer ordered, then the staff assembled the units". Now, "then" acts as a subordinate conjunction. Will the sentence "then the staff assembled the units" still be called an independent clause in the above sentence? – Tony Feb 9 '19 at 19:56
  • In "Then the staff assembled the units," then functions as a conjunctive adverb at the start of the independent clause, not a subordinate conjunction. In "The customer ordered, then the staff assembled the units," the sentence is a run-on unless a coordinating conjunction is also provided or elided to connect the two independent clauses: "The customer ordered, (and) then the staff assembled the units." – TaliesinMerlin Feb 10 '19 at 3:37
  • So, how can I identify when is "then" used as subordinate conjunction in a sentence? Because @Robusto in comments gave a sentence in which "then" was used as subordinate conjunction but in my sentence, it is not. – Tony Feb 10 '19 at 18:18
  • I don't think Robusto's example uses a subordinate conjunction, since the "subordinate clause" is an independent clause when taken in isolation, and so must be an independent clause in the larger sentence. AFAIK what you ask is not possible. – TaliesinMerlin Feb 10 '19 at 21:09

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