Subordinating Conjunctions

A subordinating conjunction connects an independent clause to a dependent (subordinate) clause:

  • an independent clause is a sentence that is a complete thought and therefore can stand alone.
  • a dependent clause does not express a complete thought and cannot stand on its own.

For example, an independent clause looks like this:

I survived the shipwreck.

A dependent clause looks like this:

Although I lost my luggage.

Notice how the second sentence is incomplete, but it includes a subordinating conjunction. In order to make the sentence complete, you would need to link the two sentences together. You can do this linking in a couple of ways:

Although I survived the shipwreck, I lost my luggage.

OR

I survived the shipwreck, although I lost my luggage.

The way you order words in a sentence depends on the impression you want to leave on your readers.

What is the purpose of a subordinating conjunction?

  1. Subordinating conjunctions act as transitions between two ideas in a sentence. The transition can indicate various kinds of relationships between these ideas (i.e. time, place, or cause and effect).
  2. Subordinating conjunctions identify which clause is more important. The more important idea is in the independent clause and the less important (subordinate) idea is in the dependent clause. Therefore, the subordinate conjunction introduces the dependent clause.

What words qualify as subordinating conjunctions?

The table below includes examples of subordinating conjunctions.

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

How do you choose which subordinate conjunction to use?

  1. Determine which relationship connects the independent and dependent clause:
    • Does the relationship between the ideas appear to be similar or different?
    • Does one clause contain information that explains or illustrates another?
    • Does one clause add information to another?
  2. Once the relationship between clauses has been identified, choose the appropriate subordinating conjunction.
  3. Vary the choice of appropriate subordinating conjunction throughout the assignment to avoid tedious repetition.

What Are Some Examples Of Subordinating Conjunctions?

As Sandy was combing her hair, she slipped off her bed.

When the car sped by, a puddle of water splashed in his face.

Amber gets cupcakes whenever she feels bad.

Since then, I have had a different opinion of him.

Although I would rather not, I will make an exception.

Conjunctions

Coordinating Conjunctions

Rhetors use coordinating conjunctions to join to two independent clauses–i.e., two sentences.