We’ve already talked about coordinating conjunctions in another post, and if you missed that and want to learn more about the FANBOY conjunctions – make sure to check it out!
Now we’re getting a little more advanced with a different type of conjunctions – subordinating conjunctions.
But let’s start from the beginning – what is a conjunction and what does it do?
A conjunction is a word that joins two or more words, phrases, or clauses.
Now, a subordinate conjunction goes a little further than that and joins together two clauses – but one of the clauses is dependent, and one of the clauses is independent.
Complicated, right? Let’s break it down…
A dependent clause is called ‘dependent’ because it cannot stand on its own. It does not express a complete thought. For example, here are some ‘dependent’ clauses:
‘If I had gone to the mall today,…’
‘Since you are in need of extra money,…’
‘Because you stayed out late last night,…’
These are not complete sentences, as you can see. They start with ‘if’, ‘since’ and ‘because’, so we are waiting for the second part of the story. We need an ‘independent’ clause to complete our story.
‘If I had gone to the mall today, I would have bought that dress I liked.’
‘Since you are in need of extra money, you should think about looking for a job.’
‘Because you stayed out late last night, you didn’t make it home in time for dinner.’
Imagine that the independent clause (the second part of these sentences which show a complete thought) is the parent and the dependent clause (the first part which does not show a complete thought) is the child. The child needs its parent.
So, where do subordinating conjunctions fit into all of this?
Well, they serve to link ideas together (as FANBOY conjunctions do) but in different ways, and luckily they can be put roughly into four categories.
Check out the table to help make this all a little clearer:
The first is to show time. Let’s see an example:
‘While I cook the dinner, you can wash the dishes from this afternoon’s lunch.’
This shows two things, in two clauses, happening at the same time. As you can see, the first part of the sentence is a dependent clause (a child) because you can’t just finish the sentence after saying ‘While I cook the dinner…’ – there needs to be an end to this story. The second part is the independent clause (the parent) and this IS a complete thought – ‘you can wash the dishes from this afternoon’s lunch.’ This would actually be fine alone, but both parts together, using a subordinating conjunction, makes the sentence, and the writing overall, much more interesting.
Let’s look at an example from cause and effect:
‘Now that it’s stopped raining, we don’t have to bring our umbrellas with us.’
Or you could write:
‘We don’t have to bring our umbrellas with us, now that it’s stopped raining.’
This shows us that we can put the independent clause either at the beginning, or at the end.
Some conjunctions are about conditions:
‘Provided that you work hard, you’ll see good results.’
Again, the independent clause here is highlighted in bold to show a complete thought. Our subordinating conjunction, ‘provided that’, is placed at the beginning of the dependent clause to show us that IF this person works hard, they will see good results.
Lastly, we use subordinating conjunctions to show contrast:
‘Even though the weather was bad, they still went outside.’
Here, the conjunction to show a contrast between the bad weather and going outside is ‘even though’.
As you can see though, there are many different conjunctions and it takes a little study and practice to learn all of them. Try to experiment with your writing by practicing using a few easy ones, and then check with your teacher that you’re using them correctly.
Let’s try an exercise to see how well you understand this. Try to identify the correct (and more than one answer may be correct) subordinating conjunction.
- _______________ my car has broken down, I’ll be late today.
- She got the job, ________________ she had no experience.
- ______________ it makes me nervous, I do drink coffee.
- ______________ Amal doesn’t speak English well, she has to study harder.
- _______________ he worked hard all year long, he wasn’t able to buy the car he wanted.
- He’s liked chocolate _____________ he was a little boy.
- ________________ I’m not allowed to do it, I’ll do it anyway.
- My wife wants to buy a house, ______________ I prefer to live in an apartment.
- ________________ the exam is finished, you will not be able to talk.
- ________________ you already know the answer, why are you asking me?
Did you use the box above to help you? Once you’ve tried to answer all of them, check your answers by scrolling down below. Don’t worry if you made a lot of mistakes in the beginning – subordinate conjunctions are difficult at first!
- BECAUSE/SINCE my car has broken down, I’ll be late today.
- She got the job, EVEN THOUGH/THOUGH she had no experience.
- ALTHOUGH/EVEN THOUGH it makes me nervous, I do drink coffee.
- BECAUSE/SINCE Amal doesn’t speak English well, she has to study harder.
- ALTHOUGH/EVEN THOUGH he worked hard all year long, he wasn’t able to buy the car he wanted.
- He’s liked chocolate SINCE he was a little boy.
- ALTHOUGH/EVEN THOUGH I’m not allowed to do it, I’ll do it anyway.
- EVEN THOUGH/ALTHOUGH/WHEREAS my wife wants us to buy a house, I prefer to live in an apartment.
- UNTIL the exam is finished, you will not be able to talk.
- SINCE you already know the answer, why are you asking me?
How did you get on? If you can get a few of these under your belt, you’ll soon see the difference in your writing. Good luck!