Subordinate Clauses

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A subordinate or “dependent” clause will begin with a conjunction (e.g. because, after, since, whether, while) or a pronoun (e.g. that, who, which). This combination of words will not form a complete sentence. It will instead make a reader want more information to finish the thought.

Correctly attaching a subordinate clause to a main clause:

When you attach a subordinate clause in front of a main clause, use a comma, like this:

Subordinate Clause + [comma] + Main Clause

When you attach a subordinate clause at the end of a main clause, you should generally use no punctuation, like this:

Main Clause + [no punctuation] + Subordinate Clause

Using subordination to combine ideas effectively:

Writers use subordination to combine two ideas in a single sentence. Here are two short sentences:

Since the two sentences are related, you can combine them to express the action more effectively:

If the two ideas have unequal importance, save the most important one for the end of the sentence so that your reader remembers it best. Observe that if we rewrite the example above so that the two ideas are flipped, the wrong point gets emphasized:

This rewritten sentence emphasizes Esther’s gasp rather than the presence of a giant snake on the sidewalk. It is also confusing to read, because it dulls the impact of both clauses.

Credit: Adapted from “The Subordinate Clause,” Chomp Chomp. 24 October 2017, http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/subordinateclause.htm.