What is a Subordinate Clause?
We first talked about clauses in the article, What is a Clause Anyway?, where we tackled both independent and dependent clauses.
In this article, we’re going to go a little deeper into dependent clauses and words, sometimes called subordinate.
What is a subordinate clause?
Firstly, a clause is a group of words that contain both a subject and a verb.
- She ran to answer the phone.
A subordinate clause depends on a main clause to form a complete sentence or thought.
- Because she could hear ringing in the other room
This clause can’t stand on its own. It needs a main clause to get across its complete thought.
- She ran to answer the phone because she could hear ringing in the other room.
How do you form complete sentences using subordinate clauses?
The main (or independent) clause and the subordinate (or dependent) clause are joined by a subordinate word or conjunction, such as:
- Although, because, before, since, unless, while.
Subordinate clauses with their subordinating conjunctions or words can come at the beginning of a sentence where they are always set off by a comma:
Although the meter was running, he took his time getting his luggage into the taxi.
While she couldn’t see her kids, she could hear their laughter and knew they were fine.
Or subordinate (dependent) clauses can come at the end of the sentence where they are never set off by a comma.
Mary asked her aunt to watch the baby while she ran quickly to the grocery store.
Jack’s arm throbbed incessantly although he had taken pain killers earlier.
What is a compound complex sentence?
You can construct a complex compound sentence by joining a dependent or subordinate clause with two independent clauses.
- Before heading out to the movies, I made sure I had plenty of money, and I called Mark to make sure he was still going.
If your subordinating clause comes at the beginning of your complex compound sentence, don’t forget to set it off using a comma.
If it comes at the end of one of your main clauses, you don’t need to separate it with a comma.
- I made sure I had plenty of money before heading out to the movies, and I called Mark to make sure he was still going.
Your two main clauses are always separated by a comma and a conjunction.
Subordinate clauses make sentences more interesting. The key is to remember:
✓ They always need to attach to a main clause to complete the sentence.
✓ You need to set them off with a comma if they come before the main clause.