Subordinating Conjunction

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Correct Uses of Subordinating Conjunctions

A subordinating conjunction (also known as dependent word, or subordinator) comes at the beginning of a subordinate (or dependent) clauseOpens in new window and establishes the relationship between the dependent clause and the rest of the sentence.

The subordinating conjunction is always the first word of the dependent clauseOpens in new window.

It usually turns the clause into something that depends on the rest of the sentence for its meaning and answers one of the adverb questionsOpens in new window (how? When? Where? Why?) about something in the relative clause.

Take a look at the common subordinating conjunction in the chart below:

Common Subordinating Conjunctions
WhereTillThoughIf only
AsAs ifAlthoughUntil
As thoughNow thatOnceBecause

Note that these subordinating conjunctions: “after, before, since,” are also prepositionsOpens in new window, but as subordinators they can be used to introduce a clause and to subordinate the following clause to the independent unit in the sentence.

Common Subordinating Conjunctions
As long asThanWhereverWhile
Even thoughEven ifSo thatWhenever
Rather thanIn order thatThat*Unless

Note that when the word “that” is turned into who or which, it is a relative pronounOpens in new window, but in any other case it is a conjunction.

Examples of Subordinating Conjunctions joining Clauses

  • He took to the stage as though he had been preparing for this moment all his life.
  • Because he loved football, he refused to give up his dream of playing for Manchester United.
  • Unless we act now, we are doomed.
  • We won’t be joining any men’s club unless their social scheme is commendable.
  • While everyone else was aging, I was getting younger.
  • The shape and style only evolves as the metal is worked.
  • So tell me, after spending all my life working for the company, what would I possibly do next?

Exceptions and Observations

  1. The Case of “Like” and “As”

    As a matter of fact, the word like is a preposition Opens in new window, not a conjunction Opens in new window. Thus it cannot be used to introduce a clause, as:

    • “My brother can’t play the piano like as he did before the accident”
    • or “It looks like as if basketball is quickly overtaking baseball as America’s national sport”.

    In attempt to introduce a clause, It’s a good idea to use as, as though, or as if, instead. Consider the following constructions:

    • Like As I told you earlier, the lecture has been postponed.
    • It looks like as if it’s going to snow this afternoon.
    • Gretchen kept looking out the window as though like she had someone waiting for her.

    In formal, or academic context, it’s a good idea to reserve the use of like for situations in which similarities are being pointed out:

    • This shirt is like the one I bought six months ago.

    However, when you are enumerating things that have similarities, such as is probably more suitable:

    • The college has several highly regarded neighbours, like such as the Mark Twain House, St. Francis Hospital, the Connecticut Historical Society, and the UConn Law School.
  2. Beginning a Sentence with “Because”

    The viral notion that one should not begin a sentence with the subordinating conjunction “because” has retain a mysterious grip on people’s sense of writing proprieties.

    This might come about because a sentence that begins with because could well end up a fragment if one is not careful to follow up the because clause with an independent clause.

    Consider the following:

    • Because e-mail now plays such a huge role in our our communications industry.
  3. When the because clause is properly subordinated to another idea (regardless of the position of the clause in the sentence), there is absolutely nothing wrong with it:

    • Because e-mail now plays such a huge role in our communications industry, the postal service would very much like to see it taxed in some manner.
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