How to use subordinating conjunctions

  • A subordinating conjunction is the word or words used to join two clauses together in a complex sentence.

  • They are words such as because, although, unless, whereas.

  • They do the job of showing the relationship between the two clauses and showing us which is the most important.

What is a subordinate clause?

A clause is a group of words that contains a verb. It may form part of a sentence, or it may be a complete sentence in itself.

A complex sentence will contain a main (independent) clause and multiple subordinate (dependent) clauses which add extra detail or information to the main clause.

A subordinating conjunction is the word or words used to join two of those clauses together, words such as because, although, unless, whereas. They do the job of showing the relationship between the clauses.

How to use subordinating conjunctions

Example 1

Greg stayed behind after school because he had a detention.

The main clause or idea in this sentence is that Greg stayed behind, the reason or the supporting detail is that he had a detention, indicated by the subordinating conjunction 'because'.

Example 2

The teacher reads to the students when they have an English lesson.

The main idea is that the teacher reads, the subordinate clause tells us when this happens.

Example 3

Although it is usually my job, Dad watered the plants this week.

Here the main clause tells us that it was Dad who watered the plants, the subordinating conjunction 'although' introduces the extra information.

Notice that when the subordinating clause comes at the start of the sentence then you need a comma to separate the clauses.

We could rewrite the first two sentences:

Because he had a detention, Greg stayed behind after school.

When they have an English lesson, the teacher reads to the students.

Experiment

Experiment with different subordinating conjunctions in your own writing.

Other subordinating conjunctions include: before, after, whenever, wherever, once, until, as though, even if, while, in order that.

There are plenty to choose from!

Activity - subordinating conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions quiz

Test your knowledge with this quick quiz.

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