Grammar 7 min read

What are Subordinating Conjunctions?

Main Subordinating Conjunctions Takeaways:

  • Subordinating conjunctions (SC) are also known as transition words. They connect dependent and independent clauses.
  • Conversely, coordinating conjunctions are different. They join clauses of equal importance.
  • There are seven main types of subordinating conjunction and about 50 different common examples.
  • You can start a sentence with a this type of conjunction.
  • This type of conjunction is also used in complex sentences.

Subordinating conjunctions sound tricky, but they’re easy to master. In this article, we’ll explore the main types and look at a few subordinating conjunction examples. We’ll also answer a few of your burning grammar-related questions along the way.

Fred adopted Fido because he loved dogs.
Ned went for a run after eating breakfast.
When my alarm goes off, I hit the snooze button.
A hand holding a magnifying lens that's magnifying the phrase subordinating conjunctions.
Subordinating conjunctions are primarily used to connect independent clauses with dependent clauses.

What Is a Subordinating Conjunction?

Subordinating conjunctions are also known as transition words (words like “because,””when,” “although,” and “despite”). They link dependent clauses to independent clauses — and they always go in front of dependent clauses. Independent clauses are complete sentences — fully formed ideas. In contrast, dependent clauses don’t work as stand-alone sentences; instead, they add information to independent clauses.

Let’s see that relationship in action:

Mary stayed with Steve until the end of the month.
Harry’s mom frowned when she saw the state of his room.
Whenever we take that route, we get lost.
Until the road is fixed, we’ll have to use the diversion.
Rachel paid her gardener, whose work she appreciated.

The dependent clause — including its subordinating conjunction — in the example immediately above is whose work she appreciated.” Clearly that doesn’t work as an autonomous sentence. Conversely, the independent clause — “Rachel paid her gardener” — is a perfectly good sentence all by itself.

Other names for this type of conjunction include transition words, conjunctive adverbs, and adverbial expressions.

What Are the 7 Subordinating Conjunctions?

The seven major varieties of subordinating conjunctions are: comparison, concession, condition, time, place, manner, and reason. It’s worth noting that, technically, there are many types of subordinating conjunctions. All of them connect subordinate (also known as dependent) clauses to main (also known as independent) clauses.

7 Types of Subordinating Conjunctions

  • Comparison: Whereas, whether, than
  • Concession: Though, although, even though
  • Condition: Unless, if, in case
  • Time: After, before, until
  • Place: Where, wherever
  • Manner: How, as if, as though
  • Reason: Because, so that, since

How To Punctuate Subordinating Conjunctions

A subordinating conjunction doesn’t need punctuation (comma), especially if it appears in the middle of the sentence. However, if it appears at the beginning of the sentence, the comma is placed after the whole subordinate clause. To reiterate, a subordinate clause or dependent clause is a group of words that can’t stand on its own in a sentence.

When the doorbell rang the kids jumped from excitement.
When, the doorbell rang the kids jumped from excitement.
When the doorbell rang, the kids jumped from excitement.
Although he’s scared of heights Jake still tried base jumping.
Although, he’s scared of heights Jake still tried base jumping.
Although he’s scared of heights, Jake still tried base jumping.

How Many Subordinating Conjunctions Are There?

There are lots of subordinating conjunctions in the English language: About 50 of them are considered common, and the rest are more obscure. You probably already include the usual suspects in your writing without even noticing. Subordinating conjunctions can be one, two, three, or even four words long. Examples include: where, assuming that, if, in case, while, although.

She would marry whomever she chose.
This is the place where the incident happened.
If you stay, I’ll put the kettle on.
I’ll drive to Mount Rushmore, assuming that I pass my driving test.
I have my raincoat with me in case it rains.
5 INK characters, each holding a placard. Placards read although, before, after, since, and unless. Additional text reads: examples of subordinating conjunctions.
Some examples of subordinating conjunctions are although, before, after, since, and unless. You often see these terms used at the beginning of dependent clauses.

What Is a Subordinating Conjunction Example?

Subordinating conjunction examples include after, if, as, that, whenever, wherever, because, and since. This type of conjunction is used at the beginning of subordinate clauses. In other words, they sit in front of the subordinate clause in a sentence made of two clauses.

Here are examples of subordinating conjunctions in action:

Richard wondered whether Polly enjoyed sugar in her coffee.
She left the flowers where Susan could see them.
Steven went on foot even though his ankle hurt.
Sheila was 11 inches taller than her sister, Stella.
Mark didn’t care where Phil went next.

What are 5 Examples of Subordinating Conjunctions?

Five examples of subordinating conjunctions are: before, after, whenever, where, and while. More examples include because, until, and since. Other examples include adverbial expressions like as long as and so that.

Single-Word Conjunctive Adverbs

Here are a few sentences with single-word subordinating conjunctions in them:

He taught her how to play the French horn.
I enjoy Cajun cuisine because it’s spicy.
Mark rode his bike so that he could get some exercise.
I haven’t eaten that type of candy since childhood.
You can stay here until you find your own place.

Adverbial Expressions

Some subordinating conjunctions are two-word, three-word, or even four-word phrases, like:

  • So that
  • Even if
  • Now that
  • As long as
  • In as much as
Bill didn’t mind as long as Beatrix wasn’t there.
Text reads: subordinating conjunctions connect an independent clause with a dependent clause. Three INK characters. Each holding a placard. First one reads independent clause. Second is subordinating conjunctions, and the third is dependent clause.
If your sentence is composed of one independent clause and one dependent clause, you need a subordinating conjunction to connect them and form a complete sentence.

What’s the Difference Between Coordinating and Subordinating Conjunctions?

Coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions both link one part of a sentence to another. But, there is a clear and important difference. On one hand, coordinating conjunctions join clauses of equal importance. In other words, each clause could stand alone as an independent sentence. On the other hand, subordinating conjunctions join clauses of unequal importance (subordinate or dependent clause with an independent clause).

Let’s compare and contrast a couple of examples. First, a coordinating conjunction used in a sentence:

My cat loves being outside, but she hates the rain.

Now, a subordinating conjunction:

Camille ran into the house because she’d forgotten her raincoat.

Here’s another coordinating conjunction in the wild:

Joe stirred the chili, and Jeanne vacuumed the carpet.

In contrast, this is a subordinating conjunction:

Bella found the Christmas present when she opened the drawer.

What Conjunctions are Used in Complex Sentences?

Subordinating conjunctions are used in complex sentences. This is because combining one clause with a subordinating conjunction creates an incomplete sentence. Therefore, the sentence needs another clause to complete its meaning. When you join two clauses using this kind of conjunction, you get a complex sentence.

What are the 3 Subordinate Clauses?

The 3 subordinate clauses are adjective, adverb, and noun. When a subordinate clause modifies a noun or a pronoun, it’s an adjectival clause. Similarly, when it modifies an adverb, its an adverbial clause.

Can Subordinating Conjunctions Start a Sentence?

Yes, you can start a sentence with a subordinating conjunction. This rule applies to both informal and academic writing. If you decide to begin a sentence with a subordinating conjunction, put a comma after the first (subordinate) clause, like this (“Whenever Ben went to school, Bill rode his bicycle”). However, if you swapped the clause placement, you’d remove the comma (“Bill rode his bicycle whenever Ben went to school“).

After Julia’s appointment ended, she called her mother.
If Steve felt scared, he didn’t show it.
When the timer beeps, remove the cookies from the oven.

Subordinating conjunctions feel tricky at first, but they’re not too hard to get the hang of. To recap, this type of conjunction links main (independent) clauses with dependent (subordinating) clauses — the subordinating clause explains the main clause.

A Quick Subordinating Conjunction Quiz to Help you Master its Usage

Subordinating Conjunction Question #1

Which of these statements is incorrect?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is A. Dependent clauses add information to independent clauses. They can’t function as stand-alone sentences.

Subordinating Conjunctions Question #2

Subordinating conjunctions can be used to describe which of these?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is D. All of the options above. Subordinating conjunctions can be used to describe or explain events relating to any of these.

Subordinating Conjunction Question #3

About 50 subordinating conjunctions are considered common in the English language.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is TRUE. There are about 50 subordinating conjunctions commonly used in the English language.

Subordinating Conjunctions Question #4

Select the subordinating conjunction. We will finish before Jackie arrives.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is C. Before is a subordinating conjunction that references time.

Subordinating Conjunction Question #5

There are____ main types of subordinating conjunctions.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is C. The seven major types of subordinating conjunctions include comparison, concession, condition, time, place, manner, and reason.

Subordinating Conjunctions Question #6

A subordinating conjunction can start a sentence.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is TRUE. You can start a sentence with a subordinating conjunction.

Subordinating Conjunction Result


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Read More: What Is Parallelism In Writing?

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Pam Weber

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, Writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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