Clauses

Subordinating Conjunctions Link 'Em Together

Subordinating conjunctions link an independent clause to a dependent clause. Each subordinating conjunction expresses a relationship between the meaning of the dependent clause and the meaning of the independent clause.

Danger, Will Robinson

Don't use length as your yardstick when determining if a clause is independent or dependent. Either type of clause can be very long or very short—or somewhere in between. Skilled writers often vary the length of their clauses to achieve rhythm, balance, and meaning in their writing.

For example, some conjunctions show time order; others, result or effect. The following table shows the most common subordinating conjunctions and the relationships they express.

Subordinating Conjunctions
RelationshipExamples
Conditionunless, provided that, if, even if
Reasonbecause, as, as if
Choicerather than, than, whether
Contrastthough, although, even though, but
Locationwhere, wherever
Result, effectin order that, so, so that, that
Timewhile, once, when, since, whenever, after, before, until, as soon as

Looking for Love in All the Right Places

Linking the right ideas can be nearly as gratifying as linking the right people. Okay, it might not be as satisfying, but it can be a whole lot easier.

Give it a whirl. Join each dependent clause with its independent clause by using the subordinating conjunction that expresses the most suitable meaning. Make your choice from the preceding chart. Write your answer on the lines provided.

  1. Police in Wichita, Kansas, arrested a 22-year-old man at the airport hotel ____________________ he tried to pass two counterfeit $16 bills.
  2. You know it's going to be a bad day ____________________ you see a 60 Minutes news team outside your office.
  3. Cats have more than 100 vocal sounds, ____________________ dogs have only about 10.
  4. ____________________ she were life-size, Barbie's measurements would be 39-23-33.
  5. ____________________ avoid an attack by a vampire, you should eat as much garlic as possible, keep a crucifix close by, and avoid cemeteries.
  6. A man in Johannesburg, South Africa, shot his 49-year-old friend in the face, seriously wounding him, ____________________ the two practiced shooting beer cans off each other's head.
  7. Ice cream will actually make you warmer rather than colder ____________________ it contains so many calories.
  8. A Los Angeles man who later said he was “tired of walking,” stole a steamroller and led police on a 5 mph chase ____________________ an officer stepped aboard the steamroller and brought the vehicle to a stop.
  9. The writer Oscar Wilde made this statement about Niagara Falls: “Every American bride is taken there, and the sight must be one of the earliest, ____________________ not the keenest, disappointments of married life.”
  10. ____________________ two service station attendants in Ionia, Michigan, refused to hand over the cash to an intoxicated robber, the robber threatened to call the police. They still refused, ____________________ the robber called the police himself and was promptly arrested.
Answers
Possible responses:
1. after 6. while
2. when 7. because
3. while, or although 8. until
4. If 9. if
5. In order to 10. When, so
Quoth the Maven

When a dependent clause introduced by a subordinating conjunction comes before the independent clause, the clauses are usually separated by a comma. For example: If you are to keep your respect for sausages and governments, it is best not to know what goes into either.

There are three different kinds of subordinate clauses: adverb clauses, adjective clauses, and noun clauses. Let's examine each one and see how it can help you beef up your writing and speech.

book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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