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Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions, also known as subordinators or subordinate conjunctions, are something we use every day in our speech and in writing.

Unless you are a lingual enthusiast, however, not many of us know what a subordinating conjunction is, let alone point one out in a sentence. In this article, we will shed light on subordinating conjunctions. We will discuss what they are all about, a list of subordinating words, and how to use them correctly in a sentence.

Ready? Get a pen and a piece of paper (bonus points if it’s lined paper).

Let’s take you to school!

subordinating conjunctions

What are Subordinating Conjunctions?

Before we venture too far into the weeds, it is a good idea to understand what a conjunction is.

A conjunction is a joining word that connects words or phrases known as conjuncts of the conjunctions. Examples of common conjunctions include and, if, and but.

So then, what is a subordinating conjunction? It is a conjunction that links two unequal elements.

Subordinating words connect a main (independent) clause with a subordinate (dependent) clause. They are an essential element making a complex sentence easier to understand.

Let us look at examples of subordinating conjunctions to give you a better understanding of these important sentence elements.

Note: Other types of conjunctions include coordinating conjunctions and correlative conjunctions. While subordinate words which connect two unequal elements (independent and dependent clauses), coordinating and correlative conjunctions act as a link among equal elements of a sentence.

Subordinating Conjunction Examples List

The English language is not short of subordinating clauses to help you accurately relay your message depending on context or preference.

Here is a list of common subordinating words:

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

While the majority of subordinators are single words, conjunctions can also consist of more than one word, like rather than, even though, and provided that.

Some words are often mistaken for subordinate conjunctions but they are not. These include words like:

  • Still
  • However
  • Otherwise
  • Accordingly
  • So forth

These are what we call conjunctive adverbs, and not only do they differ slightly from subordinating words, but also are punctuated differently.

subordinating conjunctions

Classification of Subordinating Conjunctions

The above table comprises a list of common subordinating conjunctions, but this is not a complete list. Subordinating conjunctions can be categorized into five classes depending on the meaning they convey.

Let’s take a brief look at each.

1. Time conjunctions are used to establish a point in time when the main clause will be carried out. These include: when, after, before, as soon as, as long as, until, once, still, whenever, while.

Example: I will pack for the trip before I get into bed.

2. Comparative conjunctions are used to connect two ideas deemed similar. These include: likewise, similarly, just as, similar to, in the same way, both, neither…nor.

Example: The new receptionist has been keying in the employee data records just as she was instructed by HR.

3. Concession conjunctions offer a statement which contrasts with the main idea. These include: though, although, even though, while, whereas, even if.

Example: The family continued to pray for her even though they knew things were unlikely to get better.

4. Cause conjunctions explain why the main clause activities were performed. These include: because, as, since, in order that, so that.

Example: Sheila had to spend a few more hours in the library so that she could compensate for the wasted time.

5. Place conjunctions determine where activities are likely to occur. These include: where, wherever, whereas.

Example: We will make a quick stop wherever we come across the first grab-and-go restaurant.

6. Conditional conjunctions dictate under which circumstances the main clause will be performed. These include: unless, in case, if, even if, provided that.

Example: Bring your umbrella with you in case it rains in the afternoon.

subordinating conjunctions

Sentence Structure and Punctuation

Subordinating conjunctions do not always follow the same sentence structure.

You may choose to start your sentence with the main clause, followed by the subordinate clause. In this case, a comma is not used to separate the main clause from the subordinate clause.

Example: Leanna took some time to gaze at the sunset [Main] as her friends kept watch on the barbecue. [Subordinate]

Alternatively, if you put your subordinate clause ahead of the main one, you would use a comma to separate them.

Example: As her friends kept watch on the barbecue, [Subordinate] Leanna took some time to gaze at the sunset. [Main]

Example: When the phone rang, [Subordinate] Leanna was startled and jumped out of bed to check who could be calling at that hour of the night. [Main]

Final Word

What are some of your favorite subordinating conjunctions? Could you be accused of using them too little or too much in your daily life? Are there subordinating words that you can think of that weren’t listed as an example in this article?

Take some time to go through it as this fun exercise is bound to take your English grammar up a notch!

See what we did there?

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