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A subordinating conjunction is a word that introduces a subordinate clause which cannot form a sentence on its own. The subordinating conjunction connects the subordinate clause, also called a dependent clause, to an independent clause to form a sentence.

The following examples show subordinate clauses in bold. Each subordinate clause always begins with a subordinating conjunction. The rest of each of the sentences not in bold is the independent clause, also called the main clause.

 

Examples:

  • These girls are already drunk although they have drunk only a little.
  • We had a bag of popcorn for dinner because we had nothing else to eat.
  • It’s urgent that something be done before more villagers are trampled to death by the elephants.
  • She has aged a lot since the last time we met.
  • The whole ostrich-rearing business will fail unless we put in more money.
  • My kitchen roof leaked whenever it rained.
  • Even though she is quite fat, she can run quickly upstairs.

 

As can be seen, the above subordinate clauses are introduced by subordinating conjunctions: although, because, before, sinceunless and whenever. A subordinating conjunction can come in more than one word as shown in the last example: even though. A subordinate conjunction can come at the beginning of a sentence. But the subordinate clause must not be used independently as a complete clause or a sentence. 

 

More examples of subordinating conjunctions: after, as, if, lest, now, once, provided, supposing, than, though, till, until, when, where, whereas, wherever, whether, while

Subordinating conjunctions of more than one word: as long as, as much as, as soon as, as though, even if, if only, in order that, just as, now that, provided that, rather than, so that,

An independent clause can be turned into a subordinate clause

 

Examples:

  • I was very angry with him. I punched him on his nose. (Two independent clauses)
  • I was very angry with him, so I punched him on his nose.

    (An independent clause is now a subordinate clause shown in bold).

 

(For more examples of subordinating conjunctions, see List 12 - Conjunctions.)