Does a phrase ending in V7/V - V end in an authentic cadence or a half cadence?

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  • 2
    An authentic cadence always ends with the tonic. The way you have this analyzed means that it isn't an authentic cadence, since it ends on V. You'd have to analyze it as a modulation to G (underneath your V7/V you would write "G:V7"), and change the V under the next chord to I. Then you would be saying that it's an authentic cadence in G. Not that it would be, necessarily, as the many answers have elaborated.
    – BobRodes
    Mar 13, 2015 at 20:04
  • It's a half cadence, as both Dm and D7 (ii and V7/V) have subdominant (or predominant) function.
    – user53472
    Apr 2, 2019 at 9:25

5 Answers 5


It is half cadence, but I will try to explain it to you as simply as I can:

It will not give the listener the 'ending' feel. The ending feel will be on the V-I.

The way someone listens to the V7/V - V is like this:

  • Uh? This is a really dissonant chord (V7/V)
  • No wait, it wasn't dissonant; it sounds good with this one (V)

But because the V has the leading tone, it sounds like it needs to be led somewhere (That somewhere is the tonic (I) ). If you don't lead the V to the I (or VI), it will leave something to be desired.


Secondary dominants were classified as "modulations" by 18th and 19th century music theorists, and the term "transient modulation" was used when the modulation only lasted for the two chords in question, but in the 20th century they were re-classified as "secondary dominants" which could appear before a chord on any degree of the scale.

Aurally, you don't really know whether this is a secondary dominant or a modulation till you hear what comes next. Since music is experienced as a time-sequence of sounds, almost everything is "understood" by the listener with hindsight. Of course the experience of a listener here is different from that of a musicologist looking at the complete score in whatever order he/she chooses.

A listener could arguably interpret the D7 as a chromatically altered supertonic seventh (Dm7) which is hardly going to create a "Uh? This is really dissonant" reaction, unless he/she was living in the age of Palestrina.


Assuming that you still feel C Major as the home key, and haven't modulated to G Major, this is a half-cadence (imperfect). Although, I see why you are asking the question; the movement V7/V to V is harmonically the same as a V7-I perfect cadence in the dominant, G Major. But it is functionally different with respect to C Major.


You nearly answered it yourself. Calling the last chord V makes it unfinished - an imperfect cadence (half). What happened to get to the V doesn't really come into the equation, although, as Bob says, that in itself may be considered a perfect cadence - but only when the part is in that key. As in the key of G - which it isn't.


If it ends on V, it's an imperfect cadence. If it's ended on I in a new key, it's a perfect cadence. (I'm using the British terms, but same difference).

One secondary dominant seventh doesn't necessarily make a modulation. But it might. What happens next? A section in G major? A return to C major? Or maybe both - a repeat back to the beginning (C major) but second time it continues in G major?

It's a lot more simple than you think. Admit the possibility of ambiguity - will it go this way, or that way? That's what makes music interesting! What if that B melody note was used as a pivot and the music jumped straight into E major? Would that make the preceding chord V in C or I in G? Does it matter?

  • 1
    Does it matter? To you probably not as that's seems to be what your inferring, but to people who want to study music and understand how it works (aka Music Theory) it does. We don't use Roman Numeral analysis because we just want to write them, we want to abstract ideas from them and utilize them for our own use. Every scenario you mention has a different effect that can be used and knowing what causes it, what it sounds like, and what it looks like so we can use it in the future.
    – Dom
    Mar 12, 2015 at 13:25
  • Note that "does it matter" was in the strict context of the music proceeding in an unexpected key. The function of the final G chord would remain ambiguous. And, wouldn't you agree, rather irrelevent?
    – Laurence
    Mar 12, 2015 at 18:59
  • It's not ambiguous. The progression ends on V in C major. If it were a pivot chord or modulation it would be marked as such and if a phrase modulation happened this harmony would be irrelevant. So in analysis perspective yes it does matter.
    – Dom
    Mar 12, 2015 at 19:52
  • But has V in C major become I in G major? That's defined by what happens next.
    – Laurence
    Mar 13, 2015 at 1:14
  • Unless the analysis is wrong no. This is what chromatic modulation looks like in analysis and phrase modulation is independent of what comes before so I can say if the analysis is correct I am 100% sure it's a half cadence. As you say not every chord outside the key means modulation.
    – Dom
    Mar 13, 2015 at 1:36

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