Subordinate Conjunctions Explained

So what is a subordinating conjunction?

If your head is left spinning by the different types of conjunctions; how to tell the difference between a subordinating or a coordinating conjunction or how to encourage children to use them – don’t fear, we have the answers right here.

Subordinating conjunctions main image blue

First up, what is a conjunction:

Conjunction – a word that links phrases, clauses or words together.

Subordinating conjunction – a conjunction that links the main clause with a subordinate clause.

How does that work in practice?

The main clause is the main part of the sentence, it makes sense on its own.
The subordinate clause doesn’t make sense on its own, it relies on the main clause which is why it’s sometimes referred to as a dependent clause.

Example:  The man ran down the road because he was being chased by a lion.

    • The man ran down the road = main clause. This contains the main subject, verb and object. It makes sense on its own.
    • because = subordinating conjunction linking the main and subordinate clause
    • he was being chased by a lion. = subordinate clause. This part doesn’t make sense as a sentence on its own, it depends on the information in the main clause to make sense.

So what’s the point?

As you can see from the sentence above, adding a subordinate clause can be a way to add cause and effect and therefore more detail to the main clause. Subordinate conjunctions that lend themself to this, adding cause and effect include:

because   |   as   |   that   |   since   |   if


They can also be used to show contrast:

Example:  Benson ran away from the squirrel despite being desperate to chase it.

Subordinating conjunctions that lend themself to contrasting include:

even though/if   |   despite   |   although


Subordinating conjunctions can be used to show a change in time or place:

Example 1:  Alison made slushies when it was warm.

Example 2:  This is the school where my little brother goes.

Subordinating conjunctions that can be used to show a change in time or place include:

when   |   after   |   until   |   before

How Resourcefully can help:

It is so important for children to understand how they can use subordinate conjunctions to improve their writing in order to use them effectively. Our conjunction bundle offers activities to help consolidate this learning, they give children the chance to see a range of conjunctions in different sentences as well as think about how they can use them on their own. This bundle includes our popular discussion cards, when used in a paired or small group session they offer children the chance to learn and use a variety of different conjunctions, discuss the effectiveness of them as well as to spot mistakes in sentences.