The Subordinate Conjunction

Recognize a subordinate conjunction when you see one.

Some sentences are complex. Such sentences have two clauses, one main [or independent] and one subordinate [or dependent]. These are the patterns for a complex sentence:

main clause + + subordinate clause.

subordinate clause + , + main clause.

The essential ingredient in a complex sentence is the subordinate conjunction:

after
although
as
because
before
even if
even though
if
in order that
once
provided that
rather than
since
so that
than
that
though
unless
until
when
whenever
where
whereas
wherever
whether
while
why

The subordinate conjunction has two jobs. First, it provides a necessary transition between the two ideas in the sentence. This transition will indicate a time, place, or cause and effect relationship. Here are some examples:

Louisa will wash the sink full of her dirty dishes once her roommate Shane cleans his stubble and globs of shaving cream from the bathroom sink.

We looked on top of the refrigerator, where Jenny will often hide a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

Because her teeth were chattering in fear, Lynda clenched her jaw muscle while waiting for her turn to audition.

The second job of the subordinate conjunction is to reduce the importance of one clause so that a reader understands which of the two ideas is more important. The more important idea belongs in the main clause, the less important in the clause introduced by a subordinate conjunction.

Read these examples:

As Samson blew out the birthday candles atop the cake, he burned the tip of his nose on a stubborn flame.

Burning his nose > blowing out candles.

Ronnie begins to sneeze violently whenever he opens the door to greet a fresh spring day.

Sneezing violently > opening the door.

Even though Dana persevered at the calculus exam, she was only adding another F beside her name in Dr. Armour's grade book.

Adding another F > persevering at the exam.

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