subordination is when you combine an independent clause with a dependent clause using a subordinating conjunction. What this means is that you have a complete thought and an incomplete thought (n.b., this thought is incomplete because of the subordinating conjunction), and you want to combine these two simple thoughts together into a sentence that reflects a more sophisticated form of writing by using one of the words that work to combine independent clauses with independent clauses (complete thoughts with incomplete thoughts). These words are called SUBORDINATING CONJUNCTIONS, and even though there are far more than seven of them, it really is in your best interest to commit them to memory. It is far easier to understand their nature than to memorize all of them, but I would still try to memorize all of them if you can. You can find a thorough list of subordinating conjunctions on page 329 of your SF WRITER. Please try to use them when you are combining sentences. The way that you can tell if a word functions as a subordinating conjunction is that it will take a regular, independent clause and create a condition that makes the sentence incomplete. In other words, subordinating conjunctions make complete thoughts incomplete. Let me give you an example. Sentences using subordinating conjunctions to combine clauses follow one of two basic formulas: one in which the dependent clause comes first, and one in which the dependent clause comes second. Let's look at the first formula, one where the dependent clause comes first.
Here's a real sentence made with a dependent clause joined to an independent clause.
Following this formula, we see that the subordinating conjunction (denoted by the red SC in the example) creates a dependent clause. A dependent clause is, simply put, an independent clause (or stand-alone, complete sentence) that has a subordinating conjunction in front of it. That is why subordinating conjunctions are also called DEPENDENT WORDS, because they create dependent clauses. So, the subordinating conjunction creates a dependent clause, and the beginning dependent clause is joined to the independent clause by a comma (,). If you have the subordinating conjunction and the comma in the appropriate places, you KNOW that you have formulated this sentence properly. So, if the first clause is dependent, it must be an incomplete thought. Does "Because Billy was hungry" carry a complete thought? Don't we want to know what Billy does because he is hungry? This is the incomplete condition that the subordinating conjunctions create, so if you ever use a word in a sentence, and it creates a condition similar to this one, you will know that this is a dependent clause and must be joined to an independent clause. Now let's look at the other formula.
Here's another real sentence made by joining an independent clause to a dependent clause.
Following this formula, the independent clause comes first, then the subordinating conjunction, and finally the dependent clause. You usually do not need a comma to separate the two clauses because the subordinating conjunction serves as a natural separator. When you use a subordinating conjunction to combine two simple sentences into a larger, more complicated one, it is (not surprisingly) called subordination. The new sentence that you made from the two simple sentences is now called a complex sentence. Hopefully, you have a better idea now of how to combine simple sentences using subordination.
Top of Page
Return to Materials