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What Are Subordinating Conjunctions? (with Examples)A subordinating conjunction is used to link a subordinate clause (also known as a dependent clause) to the main clause (also known as an independent clause).
In each example below, the main clause is in bold, and the subordinating conjunction is shaded.
- She left early because Mike arrived with his new girlfriend.
- Keep your hand on the wound until the nurse asks you to take it off.
A List of Common Subordinating ConjunctionsHere is a list of common subordinating conjunctions:
as soon as
by the time
in order that
in the event that
just in case
whether or not
The Function of a Subordinating ConjunctionWhen a sentence has an independent clause (main clause) and at least one dependent clause, it is known as a complex sentence. In a complex sentence, the role of the subordinating conjunction and the dependent clause is to establish a time, a place, a reason, a condition, a concession, or a comparison for the main clause. The subordinating conjunction provides the bridge between the main clause and the dependent clause.
Examples of Subordinating ConjunctionsBelow are some common subordinating conjunctions in sentences:
|as||reason||As it's raining, I'm staying in.|
|because||reason||I'm staying in because it's raining.|
|in order that||reason||In order that I don't miss the postman, I'm staying in.|
|since||reason||Since you're going out, I'm staying in.|
|so that||reason||I'm staying in so that I don't miss the postman.|
|although||concession and comparison||I'm staying in although I'd rather go out.|
|as||concession and comparison||I'm staying in as you should.|
|even though||concession and comparison||I'm staying in even though the sun is out.|
|just as||concession and comparison||I'm staying in just as you should.|
|though||concession and comparison||I'm staying in though I wish I weren't.|
|whereas||concession and comparison||I'm staying in whereas you are going out.|
|while||concession and comparison||I'm staying in while you are going out.|
|even if||condition||Even if it rains, I'm going out.|
|if||condition||If it rains, I'm staying in.|
|in case||condition||I'm staying in in case it rains.|
|provided that||condition||Provided it doesn't rain, I'm going out.|
|unless||condition||I'm going out unless it rains.|
|where||place||I fish where the waves start to form.|
|wherever||place||I will live wherever the weather is good.|
|after||time||I'm going out after the football.|
|as soon as||time||I'm going out as soon as the football has finished.|
|as long as||time||I'm staying out as long as the weather stays good.|
|before||time||I'm going out before the football.|
|once||time||I'm going out once the football has finished.|
|till||time||I'm staying out till the weather turns bad.|
|until||time||I'm staying out until the weather turns bad.|
|when||time||I'm going out when the weather improves.|
|whenever||time||I go out whenever the weather is good.|
|while||time||I'll stay out while the weather is good.|
Subordinating Conjunctions and CommasWhen a subordinate clause starts a sentence, it is normal to separate it from the main clause with a comma. For example:
- If you shoot at mimes, should you use a silencer? (Steven Wright)
- Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life. (Herbert Henry Asquith, 1852-1928)
Exceptions to the Comma RuleThere are a couple of quirks with this ruling:
Quirk 1: You Can Use a Comma for a Deliberate Pause
You should try to resist the temptation to use a comma before a subordinating conjunction. However, if a pause is needed for effect, a comma can be used before the subordinating conjunction. For example:
- Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons. (Woody Allen)
To eliminate ambiguity, it is a good practice to use a comma before because if the main clause expresses a negative idea. For example:
- I am not going, because it's raining. (This means: As it is raining, I am not going. There is no ambiguity. The comma is acceptable.)
- I am not going because it's raining. (Without the comma, this could mean: The rain is not the reason I am not going. The example below expands on the idea.)
- I am not going because it's raining. I am not going because I dislike the host.
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A subordinating conjunction and the subordinate clause often form an adverbial clause. For example:
- Keep your hand on the wound until the nurse asks you to take it off. (The text in bold is an adverbial clause. It's an adverb of time.)
- Until the nurse asks you to take it off, keep your hand on the wound. (Note the comma.)
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