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.
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.
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?
In this section, we are going to be looking at the subordinate conjunction and how it is used within a sentence. You will learn how a subordinate clause can show a cause and effect relationship between two clauses and be more confident in forming these types of sentences.
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.)
Subordinating Conjunction Examples
The most common subordinate conjunctions in the English language include: than, rather than, whether, as much as, whereas, that, whatever, which, whichever, after, as soon as, as long as, before, by the time, now that, once, since, till, until, when, whenever, while, though, although, even though, who, whoever, whom, whomever, whose, where, wherever, if, only if, unless, provided that, assuming that, even if, in case (that), lest, how, as though, as if, because, since, so that, in order (that), that, as …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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, there are lots of subordinating conjunctions, but the most common ones, along with a few examples of how subordinating conjunctions are used, are as follows:
E.g. He is cleverer than I am.
- Rather than
E.g. I chose to learn German rather than French.
E.g. She was uncertain whether to stay or leave.
- As much as
E.g. He doesn’t earn as much as me.
E.g. Elliot is tall and blond, whereas his brother is short and has dark hair.
E.g. Mary closed his diary after writing about that day’s events.
- As soon as
E.g. A baby deer can stand as soon as it is born.
- As long as
E.g. You can use my car as long as you drive carefully.
E.g. He always feeds the dogs before he goes to school.
- By the time
E.g. By the time ambulancemen arrived, he was unconscious.
- Now that
E.g. You can go and play now that you have finished your homework.
E.g. Once you learn it, you never forget.
E.g. Mary has danced since she was five.
E.g. James lived with his parents till he was twenty – five.
E.g. You can stay on the bus until you reach London.
E.g. Tom’s parents cheered for him when he crossed the finished line.
E.g. Whenever we go abroad, we take as many pictures as possible.
E.g. While I was walking to the market, I met Jenny.
E.g. Though it was raining, she went out.
E.g. Although the kitchen is small, it is well designed.
- Even though
E.g. Even though he’s a millionaire, he lives in a very small flat.
E.g. This is the park where we played.
E.g. Wherever you go in the world, you’ll always find someone who speaks English.
E.g. If you leave, I will be lonely.
- Only if
E.g. Only if a teacher has given permission is a student allowed to leave the room.
E.g. You won’t succeed unless you work hard.
- Provided that
E.g. I was allowed to go off by myself provided that I promised to be careful.
- Assuming that
E.g. I hope to go to college next year, assuming that I pass my exams.
- Even if
E.g. Even if you have already bought your ticket, you will still need to wait in line.
- In case (that)
E.g. I have my umbrella with me in case it rains.
E.g. Study hard lest you should fail.
E.g. She taught him how to play the piano.
- As though
E.g. They look as though they’re heading for divorce.
- As if
E.g. At sunset, the sun looks as if it is going down.
E.g. I love Matisse’s work because he uses color so brilliantly.
E.g. Since we’ve got a few minutes to wait for the train, let’s have a cup of coffee.
- So that
E.g. I’ll go by car so that I can take more luggage.
- In order (that)
E.g. Do exercises in order that your health may improve.
E.g. We eat that we may live.
E.g. We played chess all evening as we had nothing better to do.
E.g. She went to the school that my father went to.
E.g. I copied in my notebook whatever he wrote on the blackboard.
E.g. He developed the films which he had taken.
E.g. Mary will eat chocolate cake or donut, whichever is delicious.
E.g. The person who made the mess needs to clean it.
E.g. Whoever leaves last should turn off the light.
E.g. He’s the man whom I met in Greece.
E.g. He was free to marry whomever he chose.
E.g. She’s the student whose handwriting is the best in my class.
Learn more about the useful difference between subordinating conjunction words and transition words in English.
Subordinating Conjunctions | Image