What Is a Subordinate Clause? (with Examples)

Marcus Froland

Every sentence tells a story, and every word plays its part. But not all words are created equal. In the world of writing, some play the lead role while others support. Subordinate clauses fall into the category of the unsung heroes of a sentence. They add depth and detail, but they don’t stand alone. Instead, they lean on the main clause like a best friend, providing more information and fleshing out the narrative.

This might sound straightforward enough, but there’s an art to using subordinate clauses effectively. Without them, sentences can become robotic and lackluster; with them, writing transforms into something rich and layered. So how do these clauses weave their magic? And why should anyone care? By understanding their role, you’re unlocking a powerful tool in language that can turn simple communication into compelling storytelling.

A subordinate clause is a part of a sentence that adds extra information but cannot stand alone. It is also known as a dependent clause. This type of clause needs a main clause to make sense. For example, in the sentence “I will eat pizza because I am hungry,” “because I am hungry” is the subordinate clause. It provides a reason but needs the main part, “I will eat pizza,” to complete the idea. Subordinate clauses start with words like because, if, or although. They are crucial for adding detail and depth to your sentences.

Understanding the Basics of a Subordinate Clause

Subordinate clauses serve an essential role in crafting complex and engaging sentences. By understanding their purpose and the aspects that characterize them, you can continuously improve your English composition. In this section, we will explore the role of subordinate clauses, how they complement main ideas, and the process of identifying them in your writing.

The Role of Subordinate Clauses in a Sentence

Subordinate clauses provide valuable informational support to the main clause without forming an independent sentence. They work in conjunction with a main clause that can stand alone, creating a more detailed and nuanced statement. For example, take the sentence, “We can all go for ice cream if I can find my wallet.” Here, the subordinate clause “if I can find my wallet” is conditional and affects the main action, which is going for ice cream.

How Subordinate Clauses Complement Main Ideas

Adding subordinate clauses to main ideas expressed in independent clauses can enhance your writing and make it more engaging. They supply additional context, such as conditions, reasons, timeframes, or details, without overly complicating the primary sentence structure. In the sentence, “I will call you when I finish work,” the subordinate clause “when I finish work” sets the action’s timing.

Related:  "If There Was" vs. "If There Were": Unpacking the Grammar

Identifying Subordinate Clauses in Your Writing

One key to improving your English grammar and composition is recognizing and properly utilizing subordinate clauses in your writing. Look for clauses that begin with subordinating conjunctions like ‘since,’ ‘because,’ and ‘when,’ or relative pronouns such as ‘who,’ ‘which,’ and ‘that.’ You’ll notice that these clauses do not express a complete thought when standing alone, and they often leave the reader with unanswered questions if not connected to an independent clause.

Examples of common subordinate clause starters:

  • since
  • because
  • when
  • who
  • which
  • that

By fully grasping the concept of subordinate clauses and how they function in sentences, you can create more intricate and effective sentence structures in your English compositions.

Common Types of Subordinate Clauses and Their Uses

Subordinate clauses come in various types and serve different functions within sentences. Knowing and understanding the types of subordinate clauses, adjectival clauses, adverbial clauses, and noun clauses is essential for enhancing your writing and effective communication. Take a closer look at these types of clauses and see how they are used.

  1. Adjectival Clauses: Initiated by a relative pronoun or adverb, adjectival clauses provide more information about a noun in a sentence. Also known as relative clauses, they offer descriptive details about a person, place, or thing.
  2. Adverbial Clauses: Adverbial clauses express considerations of time, place, condition, or reason, modifying the verb in the main clause. These clauses often begin with subordinating conjunctions like ‘after,’ ‘although,’ or ‘since.’
  3. Noun Clauses: Noun clauses function as nouns and can act as subjects, direct objects, or other sentence elements. They often start with words like ‘how,’ ‘what,’ or ‘when,’ performing various functions within a sentence.

Let’s explore some examples that illustrate the different types of subordinate clauses in action:

After the project is complete, we will rest.”

The italicized part is an adverbial clause indicating the time after which the action will take place.

“The man who lives by the lake is my uncle.”

The italicized part is an adjectival clause providing more information about the man.

“I wonder when the package will arrive.”

The italicized part is a noun clause functioning as the direct object in the sentence.

Understanding the various subordinate clauses and their uses will greatly enhance your overall writing skills and allow you to create more complex sentence structures.

Learning to Recognize Subordinate Conjunctions and Relative Pronouns

Understanding and recognizing subordinate conjunctions and relative pronouns is essential to construct complex sentences and enrich your writing. With proper use of these elements, you can effectively build bridges between ideas and convey extra descriptive information in your text. This section will discuss these two crucial components of complex sentences.

Related:  Exploring the Positive Degree in English: A Guide with Examples

Subordinating Conjunctions: Building Bridges Between Ideas

Subordinating conjunctions act as connectors that link subordinate clauses to main clauses. Words like ‘although,’ ‘because,’ ‘since,’ and ‘unless’ are common subordinate conjunctions that indicate conditions, causes, time, and place, providing a clearer picture and adding context to sentences. They help in understanding the relationship between the subordinate and main clauses.

Although it rained, we managed to have a good time at the picnic.

In the example above, the subordinating conjunction ‘although’ provides contrast and context to the main clause. The sentence becomes a more nuanced and complex statement as a result.

Relative Pronouns: Relating Extra Information to the Main Clause

Recognizing relative pronouns such as ‘who,’ ‘whom,’ ‘whose,’ ‘which,’ and ‘that’ is equally important. These pronouns introduce subordinate clauses known as adjectives or relative clauses, which add descriptive information to the nouns in the main clause. They help in identifying or modifying nouns. Let’s take this example:

The book that I read last night was very interesting.

Here, the relative pronoun ‘that’ introduces additional information about the book, making it more specific and meaningful.

To help you remember and understand the different subordinating conjunctions and relative pronouns, refer to the following table:

Category Examples Function
Subordinating Conjunctions although, because, since, unless Indicate conditions, causes, time, and place; link subordinate clauses to main clauses
Relative Pronouns who, whom, whose, which, that Introduce adjective or relative clauses; add descriptive information to nouns in the main clause

With a command over subordinate conjunctions and relative pronouns, you can enhance your writing, making it more engaging and informative. Creating complex sentence structures and combining ideas seamlessly will be much easier once you master these foundational grammar components.

Examples of Subordinate Clauses in Action

Mastering the grammar application of subordinate clauses will lead to writing improvement as you construct more engaging and informative content. The following examples of subordinate clauses show the different ways that dependent clauses can be used in sentences. In the following examples, the subordinate clause has been italicized:

  1. I enjoy watching movies that employ lots of special effects, an adjective clause providing additional information about the movies.
  2. If you win the award, I will buy you a new video game, a condition expressed through an adverbial clause.
  3. Whoever thought of that idea is an idiot, a noun clause serving as the subject.

Here are some more examples, divided by the type of subordinate clause they represent:

Adjective Clauses:

  • The woman who lives next to my house has a lovely garden.
  • She bought the dress that was on sale.

Adverbial Clauses:

  • Before the sun rises, the birds start singing.
  • The project must be completed while the boss is on vacation.

Noun Clauses:

  • What she said really hurt my feelings.
  • Do you know when the meeting will start?

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of how subordinate clauses function, you can implement them strategically in your writing to craft more engaging and complex sentences, improving the overall quality of your work.

Related:  She Has or She Have - Which is Correct?

Perfecting Punctuation for Subordinate Clauses

Mastering proper punctuation and comma usage with subordinate clauses is essential for clear and effective communication. In this section, we will explore when to use commas with subordinate clauses and how to determine the differences between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.

When to Use Commas with Subordinate Clauses

Commas play a crucial role in separating clauses and enhancing readability. If a subordinate clause begins a sentence, place a comma after it. However, when the main clause comes first, no comma should separate it from the following dependent clause. For example, “Because I was tired, I went to bed early” requires a comma after the introductory subordinate clause, whereas “I went to bed early because I was tired” does not need a comma.

Distinguishing Between Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Clauses

Understanding the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses is vital for proper comma usage. Restrictive clauses are essential to the meaning of a sentence and do not require commas. For instance, “I enjoy movies that employ special effects” contains an essential detail about the movies. Conversely, nonrestrictive clauses add nonessential information and need commas. In “My brother, who is a lawyer, will help us,” the phrase “who is a lawyer” provides additional nonessential information about ‘my brother’ and is offset with commas. By following these punctuation rules, you can create well-structured sentences with appropriate information separation.