Subordinating Conjunction

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

John Lennon playing guitar
"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there would be peace." (John Lennon). Keystone Features/Getty Images

A subordinating conjunction is a conjunction (a connecting word or phrase) that introduces a dependent clause, joining it to a main clause. Also called a subordinator. Compare with coordinating conjunction.

Most subordinating conjunctions are single words (such as because, before, when). However, some subordinating conjunctions consist of more than one word (such as even though, as long as, except that).

Common Subordinating Conjunctions

TimeConcession and ComparisonCauseConditionPlace
afteralthoughaseven ifwhere
as soon asasbecauseifwherever
as long asas thoughin order thatin case 
beforeeven thoughsinceprovided that 
oncejust asso thatunless 

Examples and Observations:

  • "English has a wide range of subordinate conjunctions: that, if, though, although, because, when, while, after, before, and so forth. . . . They are placed before a complete sentence or independent clause to make that clause dependent. This dependent clause now needs to attach to another clause that is independent. Otherwise, a sentence fragment results:
    *When Doris bought the cake.
    (Mark Honegger, English Grammar for Writing. Houghton Mifflin, 2005)
  • "Although my grades were very good, I found myself unable to settle down in the high school."
    (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House, 1969)
  • "You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed."
    (Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!. Random House, 1990)
  • "As soon as the light in the bedroom went out, there was a stirring and a fluttering all through the far buildings."
    (George Orwell, Animal Farm, 1945)
  • "Unlike most babies, Stuart could walk as soon as he was born."
    (E.B. White, Stuart Little. Harper, 1945)
  • "If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there would be peace."
    (John Lennon)
  • "The secret of my incredible energy and efficiency in getting work done is a simple one. . . . [A]nyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment."
    (Robert Benchley, "How to Get Things Done." The Benchley Roundup. Harper & Row, 1954)
  • "I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible."
    (Oscar Wilde)
  • "Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day."
    (Bertrand Russell, "Dreams and Facts." Skeptical Essays, 1928)
  • "A platitude is simply a truth repeated until people get tired of hearing it."
    (Stanley Baldwin, speech in the House of Commons, May 29, 1924)
  • "I had a funny feeling as I saw the house disappear, as though I had written a poem and it was very good and I had lost it and would never remember it again."
    (Raymond Chandler, The High Window, 1942)
  • Subordinating Conjunctions and Prepositions
    "Some words are both subordinators and prepositions. If the word introduces a finite clause, it is a subordinator; if it introduces a phrase, it is a preposition:
    subordinator: I saw her after I had my interview.
    preposition: I saw her after the interview."
    (Sidney Greenbaum and Gerald Nelson, An Introduction to English Grammar, 3rd ed. Pearson, 2009)
  • Three Main Types of Subordinating Conjunctions
    "Most subordinate clauses are signaled by the use of a subordinating conjunction. There are three main types:
    - simple subordinators consist of one word:
    although, if, since, that, unless, until, whereas, while, etc.

    - complex subordinators consist of more than one word:
    in order that, such that, granted (that), assuming (that), so (that), as long as, insofar as, in case, etc.

    - correlative subordinators consist of 'pairs' of words which relate two parts of the sentence:
    as . . . so . . ., scarcely . . . when . . ., if . . . then . . ., etc.
    (David Crystal, Rediscover Grammar, 3rd ed. Longman, 2004)
  • "I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it."
    (Pablo Picasso)
  • "If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner."
    (Tallulah Bankhead)
  • "These are white-looking figures, whereas the men who are about to spar have on dark headguards that close grimly around the face like an executioner's hood."
    (Edward Hoagland, "Heart's Desire," 1973)

Sentence Combining With Subordinating Conjunctions (1908)

Combine the following pairs of sentences by means of the conjunctions if, because, although, or while.
Notice that each new sentence has two clauses, one independent and one dependent, and is therefore complex. Notice also that the dependent clause often comes first.

1. I will help the man. He deserves it.
2. Mary came up. We were talking about her.
3. I admire Mr. Brown. He is my enemy.
4. I came. You sent for me.
5. Evelyn will come to school. She is able.
6. He knows he is wrong. He will not admit it.
7. The man is rich. He is unhappy.
8. The Mexican War came on. Polk was President.
9. I shall come tomorrow. You send for me.
10. You wish to be believed. You must tell the truth.
11. The dog bites. He ought to be muzzled.
12. It would be foolish to set out. It is raining.
13. Call at my office. You happen to be in town.
14. The cat ran up a tree. She was chased by a dog.
15. The sun shines brightly. It is very cold.
16. Boston became a large city. It has a good harbor.
(Henry P. Emerson and Ida C. Bender, English Spoken and Written: Lessons in Language, Literature, and Composition. Macmillan, 1908)

Also Known As: subordinator, subordinate conjunction, complementizer

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Subordinating Conjunction." ThoughtCo, Jan. 22, 2018, Nordquist, Richard. (2018, January 22). Subordinating Conjunction. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Subordinating Conjunction." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 24, 2018).