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Subordinate Clause

Phonetics:

səˌbɔːdɪnət

ˈklɔːz

Pronunciation:

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Subordinate Clauses Demystified: Unraveling Grammar's Enigma

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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Just when you thought you could not get your head around the subordinate clause, Edulyte presents a great resource to scale up your knowledge about what is a subordinate clause and the English language overall.

Introduction: Their Importance and Why You Need Them

A subordinate clause, also known as a dependent clause, is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. Unlike its subordinate counterpart, the main or independent clause acts as the primary idea, while subordinate clauses provide additional information, context, or detail to the main idea. You keep coming across them in the sentences you read and hear. 

The Role of Subordinate Clauses in Complex Sentences 

Many of our sentences are complex sentences. They combine an independent clause with one or more subordinate clauses. Subordinate clauses are essential building blocks within these complex sentences, providing the necessary nuance and depth to communicate complex thoughts effectively.

 By incorporating subordinate clauses, we can create sentences that flow logically and convey a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.

The Importance of Understanding Subordinate Clauses for Effective Writing 

Mastery of subordinate clause words is a crucial skill for effective writing. When used adeptly, they enable writers to craft eloquent sentences that engage readers on a deeper level. Furthermore, understanding subordinate clauses ensures writers maintain clarity and coherence.

What is a Subordinate Clause and Its Relationship With Main Clauses

A subordinate clause is a fundamental concept in English grammar that adds depth and complexity to your sentence structures. A subordinate or dependent clause is a group of words containing a subject and a verb that cannot express a complete thought. 

Subordinate clauses often begin with subordinating conjunctions such as “although,” “because,” “when,” “since,” “while,” “if,” and others. 

For example

Although she studied hard for the exam.

This clause provides additional information but does not express a complete idea. It requires an independent clause to form a coherent sentence, such as: “Although she studied hard for the exam, she did not perform well.”

Characteristic features of subordinate clauses include:

  • Subject and Verb: Like independent clauses, subordinate clauses contain a subject and a verb. However, they lack the completeness needed to form a standalone sentence.
  • Subordination: The presence of subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns marks the subordination of the clause to the main clause, indicating its dependence on the main idea for meaning.
  • Additional Information: Subordinate clauses often provide supporting details, conditions, reasons, or explanations to enhance the understanding of the main clause.

Identifying Subordinate Clauses: How to Spot Them?

To effectively recognise and understand subordinate clauses in sentences, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Look for incomplete thoughts: If a group of words presents an incomplete thought and relies on additional information to convey its meaning, it is likely a subordinate clause.
  2. Check for subordinating conjunctions: Subordinate clauses often start with subordinating conjunctions. Common subordinating conjunctions include “although,” “because,” “if,” “since,” “when,” “while,” “unless,” and “until.”
  3. Observe relative pronouns: Subordinate clauses can also begin with relative pronouns, such as “who,” “which,” “whose,” “whom,” and “that.” 

Subordinate clause examples :

Subordinating Conjunctions:

  • Although: “Although it was raining, they decided to go for a walk.”
  • Because: “She missed the bus because she overslept.”
  • If: If you study hard, you will pass the exam.

Relative Pronouns:

  • Who: The woman who lives next door is a doctor.
  • Which: The book, which is on the shelf, is my favourite.
  • Whose: The girl whose brother won the award was delighted.

Types of Subordinate Clauses: Get Easy Explanations About Each

You come across subordinate clause types in various forms, each serving a unique function within a sentence. 

Noun Clauses: Noun clauses function as nouns within a sentence and can act as subjects, objects, or complements. They often begin with words like “what,” “who,” “whom,” “whose,” “which,” etc. 

  • Examples of noun clauses and their functions:

Subject: “What she said, surprised everyone.” (Noun clause “What she said” acts as the sentence’s subject.)

Object: “I don’t know where they went.” (Noun clause “where they went” functions as the direct object.)

Complement: “Her dream is to become a doctor.” (Noun clause “to become a doctor” serves as the complement.)

Adjective Clauses (Relative Clauses): Adjective clauses provide more information about a noun or pronoun in the main clause, thereby acting as adjectives. They start with relative pronouns like “who,” “whom,” “whose,” etc. 

  • Examples of adjective clauses and their functions:

Descriptive: “The book that I borrowed from the library was fascinating.” (Adjective clause “that I borrowed from the library” describes the noun “book.”)

Restrictive: “The girl who won the competition is my sister.” (Adjective clause “who won the competition” identifies a specific girl and restricts the meaning.)

Adverbial Clauses: Adverbial clauses function as adverbs within a sentence, providing additional information about the main clause. Adverbial clauses begin with subordinating conjunctions like “after,” “although,” “because,” etc. 

  • Examples of adverbial clauses and their functions:

Time: “She will call you when she gets home.” (Adverbial clause “when she gets home” indicates the time of the action.)

Place: “He will meet us where we first met.” (Adverbial clause “where we first met” describes the place of the meeting.)

Reason: “Because it was raining, they stayed indoors.” (Adverbial clause “Because it was raining” provides the reason for staying indoors.)

Examples of Subordinate Clauses: Get A Quick Grasp and Improve Your Language

Check out the few subordinate clause examples to become a pro in creating impressive sentences.

  1. Subordinate Clause (Reason): Main Clause: “She couldn’t attend the party.” Subordinate Clause: “because she was feeling unwell.” Analysis: The subordinate clause “because she was feeling unwell” explains why she couldn’t attend the party.

  2. Subordinate Clause (Time): Main Clause: “He will call you.” Subordinate Clause: “after he finishes his meeting.” Analysis: The subordinate clause “after he finishes his meeting” indicates when he will call.

  3. Subordinate Clause (Purpose): Main Clause: “She bought a new laptop.” Subordinate Clause: “so that she could work more efficiently.” Analysis: The subordinate clause “so that she could work more efficiently” explains the purpose behind buying a new laptop.

  4. Subordinate Clause (Adjective Clause): Main Clause: “The house is beautiful.” Subordinate Clause: “which was built in the 19th century.” Analysis: The subordinate clause “which was built in the 19th century” provides additional descriptive information about the house.

  5. Subordinate Clause (Adverbial Clause of Manner): Main Clause: “He solved the problem.” Subordinate Clause: “by following the instructions carefully.” Analysis: The subordinate clause “by following the instructions carefully” describes how he solved the problem.

  6. Subordinate Clause (Noun Clause as Subject): Main Clause: “It is essential.” Subordinate Clause: “that he arrives on time.” Analysis: The subordinate clause “that he arrives on time” functions as the sentence’s subject.

Using Subordinate Clauses Effectively: How Can You Add Them In Your Sentences

To seamlessly integrate subordinate clauses into different writing styles, you have to: 

  • Maintain Clarity: Ensure that subordinate clauses are clear and concise to prevent reader confusion.
  • Vary Sentence Structure: Experiment with sentence structures by strategically incorporating subordinate clauses. 
  • Practice Punctuation: Master punctuation rules for subordinate clauses, including proper use of commas, dashes, and semicolons. 

Sentences that illustrate the diversity of subordinate clause usage:

  1. Noun Clause (Subject): “What she said surprised everyone.”
  1. Adjective Clause (Descriptive): “The girl who lives next door is my best friend.”
  1. Adverbial Clause (Time): “We will go to the beach when the weather improves.”
  2. Adverbial Clause (Purpose): “He works hard so that he can achieve his goals.”

Subordinate Clauses in Different Contexts: Their Significance In Written and Spoken English

Read  on to understand subordinate clauses in different contexts:

  1. In Academic Writing: Subordinate clauses play a crucial role in academic writing by enabling scholars to present complex ideas, arguments, and supporting evidence in a structured manner. 

“The study aimed to explore the impact of climate change, which is a pressing global concern.”

  • In Storytelling, Narratives, and Creative Writing: Subordinate clauses are instrumental in storytelling and creative writing, as they allow writers to craft vivid scenes, evoke emotions, and add depth to characters and settings.

 “In the quiet forest, where the moonlight filtered through the trees, she felt a sense of tranquility.”

  • In Everyday Conversations and Informal Language: Subordinate clauses are used naturally in everyday conversations and informal language, allowing for a more nuanced expression of ideas and experiences. 

“I couldn’t attend the party because I had a prior commitment.”

Subordinate Clauses in Complex Sentences

Complex sentences combine an independent clause (main clause) with one or more subordinate clauses (dependent clauses). 

To create complex sentences, follow these steps

  1. Identify the main idea: Start with the independent clause, which should convey the primary message of the sentence.

  2. Decide on the subordinate clause type: Choose the appropriate type of subordinate clause (e.g., noun clause, adjective clause, adverbial clause) based on the additional information you want to convey. 

  3. Use subordinating conjunctions: Introduce the subordinate clause with appropriate subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns that indicate the relationship between the clauses. 

  4. Combine the clauses: Connect the main and subordinate clauses (s) using appropriate punctuation.

Example: 

  • Main Clause: “She loves to read.” 
  • Subordinate Clause: “because it allows her to explore different worlds.”
  • Combined Sentence: “She loves to read because it allows her to explore different worlds.”

Example:

  • Main Clause: “The movie was captivating.” 
  • Subordinate Clause: “which was based on a true story.”
  • Combined Sentence: “The movie, based on a true story, was captivating.”
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Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: A subordinate clause is a dependent clause that cannot stand alone as a complete sentence and relies on the presence of an independent clause (main clause) to convey meaning.

  2. Types: Subordinate clauses come in different types, including noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverbial clauses. Each type serves a specific function within a sentence.

  3. Introducing Subordinate Clauses: Subordinate clauses are often introduced by subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns, which indicate the relationship between the subordinate and main clause.

  4. Verb Agreement: Ensure that the verb in the main clause agrees with the subject and that the tense in the subordinate clause matches the context of the sentence.

  5. Vary Sentence Structure: While subordinate clauses add complexity, use them judiciously to maintain a balanced mix of simple, compound, and complex sentences in your writing.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do subordinate clauses differ from independent clauses?

Subordinate clauses and independent clauses are two distinct types of clauses in English grammar, and they differ in their structure, function, and ability to stand alone as complete sentences.

Subordinate Clauses: Subordinate clauses contain a subject and a verb but cannot express a complete thought. They rely on the presence of an independent clause to convey meaning.

 Example: “Although she studied hard for the exam.”

  • Independent Clauses: Independent clauses, or main clauses, are complete sentences. They contain a subject and a verb and express a complete thought that can stand independently. 

Example: “She passed the exam.”

Can you provide a list of words that introduce subordinate clauses?

Certainly! Below is a list of common subordinating conjunctions and relative pronouns that introduce subordinate clauses:

Some Subordinating Conjunctions:

  1. Although
  2. Because
  3. While
  4. Since
  5. If

Some Relative Pronouns:

  1. Who
  2. Whom
  3. Whose
  4. Which
  5. That

What is the function of a subordinate clause in a sentence?

The function of a subordinate clause in a sentence is to provide additional information, context, or detail to the main clause. 

For example: Main Clause: “She loves to read.” Subordinate Clause: “because it allows her to explore different worlds.”

How do I use subordinate clauses to create complex sentences?

To use subordinate clauses effectively and create complex sentences, follow these steps:

  1. Identify the Main Idea:
  2. Decide on the Subordinate Clause Type
  3. Use Subordinating Conjunctions or Relative Pronouns: because, although, if, since, when, while,et. 

Example : Main Clause: “She loves to travel.” Subordinate Clause (Adjective Clause): “who has visited many countries.”

Combined Sentence: “She loves to travel and has visited many countries.”

Are there any rules or guidelines for using subordinate clauses correctly?

Yes, there are rules and guidelines for using subordinate clauses correctly in English grammar. 

  1. Make Sure Subordinate Clauses Are Connected to Main Clauses: 
  2. Use Subordinating Conjunctions or Relative Pronouns.
  3. Match Verb Tenses:
  4. Punctuate Correctly: Use appropriate punctuation (e.g., commas, semicolons) to connect and separate clauses correctly.

How can I avoid common mistakes when using subordinate clauses in writing?

To avoid common mistakes when using subordinate clauses in writing, consider the following tips:

  1. Understand Subordinate Clause Types
  2. Use Subordinate Clauses Sparingly
  3. Ensure Logical Connection
  4. Check Verb Agreement

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