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Lesson 2.3 Subordinate Clauses

downloadable subordinate clause worksheet


The independent clauses, introduced in Lesson 2.1, are clauses that are not dependent on some other part of a sentence. Both of the following are independent clauses.


            She likes eggplant.

            The girl with the striped pants who I met yesterday adores eggplant fresh from the garden.


In Lesson 5.3 and 5.4, you can learn more about combining such clauses into coordinated clauses, and the varied ways such clauses can be punctuated.


But here, let’s examine when one clause is subordinate to or dependent on another clause.


So take the clause


                        She likes eggplant.


and you can attach it to


                        I think that….

to make

                        I think that she likes eggplant.


Here, she likes eggplant is subordinate to or depends on the first part of the sentence, I think that. We see that the subordinator that above links the subordinate clause to the main clause. Whether and if can do this too. Also, there is a subtype of prepositions called subordinating prepositions that introduce subordinate clauses. (Sometimes these are called subordinating conjunctions, but they don’t conjoin similar kinds of clauses, and they are a subtype of preposition. See the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language for a discussion.)


common subordinating prepositions: although, because, before, even though, since, when, while,...


If a subordinate clause is not connected to its main clause, it is considered a fragment in formal academic writing. These are quite common in speech, but in most writing, the extra information needs to be filled in. See Lessons 2.1 and  2.2.


            Because she is tired.

            That she likes eggplant.


Activity: Use each of the subordinating prepositions to adjoin a subordinate clause to a main clause. Here are some introductory pieces of sentences to get you started.


            She wants to swim...

            My uncle ate a squid...

            I want to shower...

            The dog rolled in the mud...

            The whole team is really tired...


Now use the subordinators (also called complementizers) to make complete sentences form the following:


            I know that…

            She wonders whether…

            Do you know if…


key words: clause, subordinate clause, subordinating preposition, subordinating conjunction, dependent clause


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.1h Use coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.1e Form and use prepositional phrases. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.1f Produce complete sentences, recognizing and correcting inappropriate fragments and run-ons. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.1a Explain the function of conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections in general and their function in particular sentences. 


Here is this lesson as a pdf.

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