Subordinating Conjunctions: Ultimate List and Great Examples

Today we’ll be taking a closer look at subordinating conjunctions to understand what they are. We’ll take a look at some examples and highlight how a subordinating conjunction differs from a coordinating conjunction too.

Conjunctions are an easy enough thing to understand for most people. When something is conjoined, it is joined together. Conjunctions work in much the same way, by joining two ideas together in a sentence. But when you start splitting conjunctions into more specific categories, people may start to become confused by the functions of each individual one.

In English grammar, there are two types of clause, the dependent clause and the independent clause and when a sentence requires the linking of the two, a subordinating conjunction is required. This is a very important part of English grammar which is essential to anyone studying the language.

What Is A Subordinating Conjunction?

Subordinating Conjunction Definition

A subordinating conjunction is a word which joins together a dependent clause and an independent clause. A subordinating conjunction introduces a dependent clause and indicates the nature of the relationship among the dependent clause(s) and the independent clause(s).

A subordinating conjunction still functions as a conjunction by being a word or phrase that links the main or independent clause (the main idea of the sentence) to a subordinating or dependent clause (these clauses don’t make sense on their own as a complete sentence, but are there to add additional information to the main or independent clause).

(NOTE: What is an independent clause? It is a unit which contains a subject and a verb. For example, “It was raining” is a independent clause; the subject is “it,” and the verb is “was raining.” A dependent clause is a clause which cannot exist on its own; it needs a independent clause to go with it.)

Main Subordinating Conjunctions Takeaways

  • Subordinating conjunctions join two clauses together: an independent clause (or main clause) and a dependent clause (or subordinate clause).
  • If the dependent clause comes first, then a comma is needed to connect it to the main clause.
  • If the main clause comes first, then a comma is not usually necessary (unless the information added could be taken out without changing the meaning of the sentence, but this is usually left to the writers discretion, such as in the case of the “Someone has to speak in public, whether it’s you or me” example above).
  • They differ from coordinating conjunctions because coordinating conjunctions join two independent clauses together, not a dependent clause and an independent clause as subordinating conjunctions do.

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating Conjunctions Examples

There are actually 7 main categories of subordinating conjunctions based on the way in which they connect the independent and dependent clauses together. Each type of subordinating conjunction shows a different relationship between the independent and dependent clauses. Take a look at some examples below.

Comparison

These words or phrases link the dependent and independent clauses by comparing the two of them:

  • Tim liked chocolate whereas Sally preferred candy.
  • Someone has to speak in public, whether it’s you or me.

Concession

These words or phrases link the dependent and independent clauses by conceding a point between them:

  • Although I’m going to work, I’d much rather stay home.
  • Sally is heading to the park today despite the rain.

Condition

These connect the dependent and independent clauses by showing that the main idea relies on the supporting information:

  • Unless you can convince her to be nice, I’m not coming to dinner.
  • Tim wasn’t willing to work extra hours in case he missed the big game.

Time

These connect the two clauses together by showing a time relationship between the two of them:

  • After Valentine’s Day is over, we’ll go out to eat.
  • Sally made it to the front of the line before it was time for lunch.

Place

Place subordinating conjunctions shows position with the relationship:

  • The pirate hid the gold where nobody could ever find it.
  • Wherever possible, you should switch your groceries for healthier alternatives.

Manner

These words or phrases show how something is done. The subordinating conjunction is the additional information explaining how something is done:

  • Tim started to dig as if his life depended on it.
  • Sally cried as though she were a baby.

Reason

These subordinating conjunctions provide a reason or an explanation as to why something happened:

  • We ate early because we were hungry.
  • Sally arrived late so that she wouldn’t have to see her boss.

How to Use and Punctuate Subordinating Conjunctions

As you can see from all of the examples that we have used above, some are punctuated slightly differently. This all depends on the position of the subordinating conjunction within the sentence, and whether or not the additional information within the subordinating clause is important or if it could be omitted entirely or placed in parentheses. Much of this comes down to the writers opinion, but there are rules surrounding commas and subordinating conjunctions that always remain true.

Comma Placement and Subordinating Conjunctions

As you already know, a subordinating or dependent clause is the part of the sentence that simple does not make sense without the main clause. In the examples above you have been able to see that sometimes the subordinating clause comes before the main clause, and sometimes it comes after. Whether or not you include a comma largely depends on whether the subordinating clause comes before or after the main clause:

Sally is heading to the park today despite the rain – in this example the subordinating clause comes after the main clause. You can always tell the difference between the two, because main clauses work on their own as a complete sentence “Sally is heading to the park today” but subordinating clauses do not “despite the rain”. No comma is needed in this sentence because the subordinating clause comes after the main clause and it’s important information that shouldn’t be omitted. You could, however, write the sentence in a different order, and then a comma would be necessary.

Despite the rain, Sally is heading to the park today – because the subordinating clause comes first, a comma is needed. It’s the generally accepted rule that when the subordinating clause comes before the main clause, a comma should separate the two.

Difference between Coordinating and Subordinating Conjunctions

So, now you know everything about subordinating conjunctions, what exactly is the difference between a subordinating and coordinating conjunction? The main difference is that coordinating conjunctions join two clauses together of equal importance. The ideas may be connected, so a coordinating conjunction is required, but they are two independent or main clauses that are being joined together. In other words, both clauses could be written as separate sentences without the coordinating conjunction if the writer preferred.

Subordinating conjunctions, on the other hand, join an independent clause and a dependent clause together, so both clauses are not of equal importance. That is to say, the dependent clause only serves to add additional information to the independent clause, and can not be written as a sentence on its own.

Subordinating Conjunctions List

In English grammar, there are numerous subordinating conjunctions. Some common examples include:

  • After
  • Although
  • As
  • As if
  • As long as
  • Before
  • Because
  • Even if
  • Even though
  • If
  • Once
  • Since
  • Than
  • That
  • Though
  • Unless
  • Until
  • When
  • Whenever
  • Where
  • Wherever
  • While

These conjunctions can be grouped into several categories based on their function in a sentence. Here, we provide examples for four key categories of subordinating conjunctions: time, place, cause and effect, and condition.

Time

Time-related subordinating conjunctions link clauses that indicate timing or relationships between events. Some examples include:

  • After: She went to the store after she finished her homework.
  • Before: Complete your tasks before you go to bed.
  • Once: Once the dish is prepared, serve it immediately.
  • When: We will have a picnic when the weather is nicer.

Place

Place-related subordinating conjunctions signify the location or the relationship between two places. Examples consist of:

  • Where: They always meet where the two roads intersect.
  • Wherever: She follows him wherever he goes.

Condition

Conditional subordinating conjunctions introduce a clause that states a condition or requirement for the main clause to occur. Some instances of these conjunctions are:

  • If: If she studies hard, she will pass the exam.
  • Unless: We will go for a walk unless it rains.
  • Even if: Even if she is tired, she will continue working.

Cause and Effect

When indicating cause and effect relationships in a complex sentence, subordinating conjunctions such as “because”, “since”, and “as” are used. These conjunctions help create a clear connection between the independent and dependent clauses.

  • She decided to stay at home because it was raining.
  • Since he finished his work early, he had time to watch a movie.
  • They chose the blue paint as it matched the curtains.

Concession

Concession subordinating conjunctions are used to show an unexpected or contrasting situation within a sentence. Some common examples include “although”, “even though”, and “while”.

  • Although she was tired, she continued working on the project.
  • He went for a run even though it was cold outside.
  • While I enjoy hiking, I am not a fan of camping.

Comparison

To express comparison between clauses, subordinating conjunctions like “than” and “as…as” can be used.

  • She can run faster than her brother.
  • They are not as wealthy as their neighbors.

In summary, subordinating conjunctions play a critical role in connecting a subordinate clause to the main clause in a sentence, creating a complex sentence with a clear relationship between the clauses. Through the use of various conjunctions, we can effectively express cause and effect, concession, or comparison, adding richness and nuance to our language.

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FAQs on Subordinating Conjunctions

What are subordinating conjunctions?

Subordinating conjunctions are words or phrases that join a dependent clause to an independent clause, indicating relationships like cause and effect, conditional relationships, and transitions in time or place. These conjunctions help to create complex sentences in which the dependent clause adds informative value to the main idea.

What is the difference between dependent and independent clauses?

A dependent clause is a group of words with a subject and verb that cannot stand alone as a complete sentence, whereas an independent clause can. Dependent clauses rely on independent clauses to provide context and clarity.

What are some common subordinating conjunctions?

Some common subordinating conjunctions include:

  • after, although, as
  • because, before, by the time
  • even if, even though, if
  • once, provided that, rather than
  • since, so that, than
  • though, unless, until
  • when, where, whether
  • while, yet

How are subordinating conjunctions different from coordinating conjunctions?

Coordinating conjunctions act as equal connectors between clauses, phrases, or words, creating compound sentences. The most common coordinating conjunctions are ‘and,’ ‘but,’ ‘for,’ ‘nor,’ ‘or,’ ‘so,’ and ‘yet.’ In contrast, subordinating conjunctions join dependent clauses to independent clauses, showcasing different relationships in complex sentences.

How do you punctuate sentences with subordinating conjunctions?

The punctuation within a complex sentence depends on the order of clauses. If the dependent clause comes before the independent clause, a comma should be used after the dependent clause. If the independent clause comes first, no comma is needed.

Do subordinating conjunctions affect the subject and verb agreement?

Subordinating conjunctions themselves do not change subject-verb agreement. Each clause in a sentence must maintain proper subject-verb agreement within its respective clause. The agreement can differ between clauses if the subjects are different in each clause.

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