Friday, August 19, 2011

Subordinating Conjunctions

The most complicated conjunctions to use are the subordinating conjunctions. Instead of joining two more-or-less equal things, subordinating conjunctions are used when there is an independent main clause (which can stand on its own), joined with a dependent subordinate clause (which cannot stand on its own). The conjunction expresses the relationship between those two clauses.
  • There might be a relationship in space.
    Wherever Rama went in the forest, he found the ashrams of gurus and sages.
  • There might be a relationship in time.
    Odysseus set sail for his home in Ithaca after the Greeks sacked the city of Troy.
  • There might be a logical relationship.
    Even though the dwarves had warned her to be careful, Snow White ate the poisoned apple.
As you can see, the subordinate clause can come first in the sentence (in which case, you use a comma), or it can follow the main clause. For more information about punctuation, see below.

There are many subordinating conjunctions in English. Here is a partial list:

Subordinating Conjunctions
Place
Time
Reason
Concession
Condition
Manner
where
wherever
after
before
since
when
whenever
while
until
as long as
once
now that
because
since
so that
in order that
why
although
though
even though
rather than
while
if
if only
unless
until
in case
provided that
assuming that
even if
whether
as if
as though
how

Punctuation. When the subordinate clause comes first, there is almost always a comma between the subordinate clause and the main clause.
  • Because Heracles was the son of Zeus and Alcmena, Hera hated him.
  • Until a princess kissed him, the prince was cursed to remain a frog.
  • After he had stolen the golden harp, Jack climbed back down the beanstalk.
  • Provided that she did not stay past midnight, Cinderella was able to attend the ball.
When the main clause comes first, there may or may not be a comma between the main clause and the subordinate clause. Usually there is not a comma:
  • Hera hated Heracles because he was the son of Zeus and Alcmena.
  • The prince was cursed to remain a frog until a princess kissed him.
  • Jack climbed back down the beanstalk after he had stolen the golden harp.
Sometimes, though, a comma may be used to make the subordinate clause more emphatic:
  • Cinderella was able to attend the ball, provided that she did not stay past midnight.
As a general rule, you should put a comma after a dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence, but it is not required for a dependent clause at the end of a sentence.

SENTENCE FRAGMENTS. A subordinated clause cannot stand by itself; it is just a sentence fragment, not a complete sentence.
  • It was midnight and Cinderella had to leave the ball. Although she did not want to.
To fix that kind of fragment, you need to attach the subordinate clause to the main clause:
  • It was midnight and Cinderella had to leave the ball, although she did not want to.
Find out more here: CONJUNCTIONS.



After he had stolen the golden harp,

Jack climbed back down the beanstalk.

(image source)

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