Students understanding the complexity of language

Chapter 06-04: Clauses II – Subordinate Clauses


chapter 6: subordinate clauses

The first dependent clause form is the subordinate clause, which is formed when a a subordinating element, such as a  subordinator, immediately precedes the subject of the clause. The subordinator, therefore, is the KEY DEPENDENT MARKER  for identifying a subordinate clause and it must precede the subject.
The subordinate clause always functions adverbially. In other words, a subordinate clause assumes a ‘part-to-whole’ relationship with an independent clause. As with most  adverbials, a key test for a subordinate clause is if the whole clause can move around in the sentence or be deleted, with the sentence retaining the same basic meaning:
When I have a free hour, I’ll finish my homework.
I’ll finish my homework when I have a free hour.
He waited while I cashed a check.
While I cashed a check, he waited.
Obviously, the subordinate clause in these two examples adds important information, but it is not required information for the independent clause to be understood as written.
Some common subordinators include: after, as, before, for, since, through, until, while. There are others, but this basic list will get you started.
While subordinators and prepositions may appear similar (and are often drawn from the same list of words), don’t confuse subordinate clauses and prepositional phrases. You should be able to  distinguish between a prepositional phrase.
At midnight, I went to the market.
As the clock struck midnight, I went to the market.
While both the prepositional phrase and the subordinate  clause are functioning adverbially (you can move them around in the  sentence: I went to the market at midnight; I went to the market as the clock struck midnight), you should be able to recognize the differences between the highlighted structures.