Subordinate Conjunctions

One type of connectives in English grammar is subordinate conjunctions. It expresses a variety of relationships between the two clauses. For example, “after” shows a temporal relationship, while “because” indicates a cause-and-effect relationship. This grammar component is essential for expressing complex ideas in English. They allow us to combine several thoughts into one sentence, which makes our writing more concise and coherent.

In this blog, we will discuss the different subordinate conjunctions and how they are used in English, learn the common mistakes and how to avoid them, and test your understanding of the topic.

What is a Subordinate Conjunction?

Subordinate conjunctions are words that join two clauses together to form a complex sentence. They introduce subordinate or dependent clauses, which provide additional information to the independent clause. Examples of subordinate conjunctions include: after, although, as, because, before, if, since, so that, though, unless, until, and when.

Here are a few examples of sentences using subordinate conjunctions:

1. After I finished my homework, I went to the mall.

2. We decided to go for a walk although it was raining,

3. As soon as he arrived, he started cooking dinner.

4. She decided to take a nap because she was tired,

5. She locked all the windows and doors before leaving the house.

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What is a complex sentence?

There are four types of sentences according to structures: simple sentence, compound sentence, complex sentence, and compound-complex sentence. Complex sentences contain one independent clause and at least one subordinate clause (or dependent clause) to form a complete sentence. Subordinate conjunctions are essential in the structure of complex sentences as it signals the start of a dependent clause.

The table below explains the two parts of a complex sentence:

Sentence StructuresExamples
Independent Clause

→ a grammatical structure with a subject-verb unit that has a complete meaning and can stand on its own
– Our school suspended classes.

– The seller won’t refund the purchase.

– I will let you borrow money.
Subordinate Clause or Dependent Clause

→ a grammatical structure without a subject-verb unit that cannot stand on its own and relies on an independent clause to complete its meaning
– Because of the storm.

– If it’s not broken.

– After you pay your previous dues.
Their combination: Complex Sentence– Our school suspended classes because of the storm.
– The seller won’t refund the purchase if it’s not broken.

– I will let you borrow money after you pay your previous dues.
Table on Parts of Complex Sentences
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Subordinate Conjunctions Rules

Subordinate conjunctions connect two related ideas or clauses that would otherwise not make sense without them. One pitfall when using them is being unfamiliar with their meaning and function. It leads to mistaking one subordinate conjunction with the other and changing the intended message of your statement or committing a grammatical mistake.

The table below explains the function of the different groups of subordinating conjunction:

Function of Subordinate ConjunctionSubordinate ConjunctionsExample Sentences
Specifying Time

→ provides a temporal relationship between the independent and dependent clause; it answers the question ‘when’
after, as soon as, as long as, before, once, still, until, when, whenever, and while– I will go after you.

As soon as Gail leaves the room, I will clean it and arrange the books. – He waited for you until midnight.
Showing Comparison → provides context for comparisonjust as, though, whereas, in contrast to, and while– They mourned his death just as they had done for his father.

Though he was tired, he still went to the gym.

Whereas I prefer to stay at home, my brother likes going out.
Indicating Concession → provides a context between an event and obstacles in the way preventing it to occuralthough, as though, and even though– She cooked dinner for everyone even though she was tired.

– Frank loved going fishing, although sometimes he would end up catching nothing at all.

– They introduced him to the family as though he did not already know him.
Expressing a Cause-and-Effect Relationship → provides a context in the result of something or why a change happenedas, because, since, and so that– He quickly ran since he was late for his meeting.

– The doctor rushed to the emergency room because a patient was in critical condition.

– I studied hard so that I could get a good grade on the test.
Providing Condition → provides a context of when an event will happen; it gives rules to be fulfilled for an action to take placeonce, only if, even if, if, in case, provided that, and unless– You can go out tonight, provided that you finish your homework first.

– We can watch the movie if we have enough time.

Only if you promise to be careful can you borrow my car.
Stating a Place → provides context as to where actions might occur; these might unspecified places (e.g., wherever you go, where the sea meets the land)where, wherever, everywhere, anywhere– He went hiking where the group had gone before.

– We can go wherever you want to go.

– She looked for him everywhere on the camping grounds.
Table of Rules for Subordinate Conjunctions
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Comma Usage of Subordinate Conjunctions

Subordinate conjunctions are words that introduce a subordinate clause and are often used to join two independent clauses together. When using subordinate conjunctions, it is important to remember to use commas correctly in order to avoid run-on sentences or confusion between the two parts of the sentence.

Here are the correct comma placement rules for subordinate conjunctions:

  • If a sentence starts with a subordinate clause, separate it from the independent clause using a comma.


  1. Once you finish your project, we will go watch a movie.
  2. While Jenna is crocheting, Ashley is watching TV.
  3. In contrast to glasses of wine, beer is cheaper.

An exception to this rule is the condition conjunction ‘only if.’


  1. Only if Chary apologizes that I will forgive him.
  2. Only if the day is sunny will we go to the beach.
  3. Only if the management approves the plan will it be implemented.
  • If a sentence starts with an independent clause and is followed by a subordinate clause, no comma is needed.


  1. The project launch will commence once the chairman arrives.
  2. Our situation would remain the same unless we take action.
  3. We had to create a new strategy because the old one was not working.

An exception to this rule is the concession conjunction ‘although.’


  1. It ended up being sunny, although the forecast predicted snow.
  2. The painters were able to finish the project, although it was difficult.
  3. We went to the beach, although it was a bit chilly.
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Examples of Subordinate Conjunctions

Here are ten examples of sentences using subordinate conjunctions:

  1. The drunk driver was arrested after he crashed into the store.
  2. We can’t leave until everyone is ready.
  3. Rather than going to the movies, we decided to visit my grandmother.
  4. She was excited when she heard the news about the scholarship.
  5. I will help you unless you don’t want me to.
  6. Wherever you go, I will be here waiting for you.
  7. I will buy the tickets provided that I have enough money.
  8. Although he offered to help, I decided to do it myself.
  9. Once you finish your assignment, you can play video games.
  10. We can’t start the construction until we get approval from the government.

Subordinate Conjunctions Exercises with Answers

Choose which conjunction best completes the sentences below.

  1. (Before, After, By the time, While) graduating, he immediately applied for a job.
  2. We threw the food away (once, so, because, even if) it was spoiled.
  3. Jules flew to see her friend, (provided, before, now when, although) it was expensive.
  4. I have already prepared the vegetables and meat for the meal (so that, unless, in case, now that) we can cook quickly later.
  5. (When, If, Since, Although) the start of the school year, Hector has been studying hard.


  1. After graduating, he immediately applied for a job.
  2. We threw the food away because it was spoiled.
  3. Jules flew to see her friend, although it was expensive.
  4. I have already prepared the vegetables and meat for the meal so that we can cook quickly later.
  5. Since the start of the school year, Hector has been studying hard.
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Subordinate Conjunctions List

Subordinate Conjunctions
afternow that
althoughnow when
as ifonly
as long asonly if
as much asprovided
as soon asprovided that
as thoughrather than
by the timeso that
even ifunless
even thoughuntil
in casewhere
in order thatwhere if
in the event thatwhereas
just aswhether or not
Subordinate Conjunctions Table
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Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

English grammar, like any language, is a complex subject to study. Understanding and applying grammar rules can be challenging, especially for English language learners. However, your success in learning the language is dependent on your learning plan.

First, know that there are different levels of language proficiency. Knowing your status allows you to align it with your study materials and learning strategy. To keep your motivation, select beginner-friendly materials instead of university textbooks when starting. In doing so, you will feel less intimidated by the topics you should learn.

Second, focus on the basics: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Learn how to use them correctly in sentences and understand their meaning. It will help you build a strong foundation for your English language learning journey. Divide those topics into subtopics and learn each concept and rule one by one.

Third, find a reliable source of learning materials. Online resources such as websites, blogs, and YouTube videos are mostly free. LillyPad’s blog, for example, is a great resource for English language learning materials. Additionally, you can find books and other printed materials in your local library or bookstore.

Fourth, practice speaking the language with native speakers or other English learners. It will help you understand how to use the language correctly in conversations and improve your pronunciation.

Finally, be patient with yourself and don’t give up. Learning a language takes time and effort, so set realistic goals and celebrate your achievements along the way.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand correlative conjunctions and coordinate conjunctions.

Common Mistakes Made by English Learners

Learning a new language can be difficult, and English is no exception. Even experienced English learners make mistakes when speaking or writing in the language. Here are some of the most common mistakes made by English learners:

Common MistakeWhy it HappensCorrectionExamples
Writing sentence fragments when using subordinate conjunctionsLearners sometimes forget that subordinate conjunctions signal a dependent clause that cannot stand on its own to form a complete sentence.While it is acceptable to begin a sentence with subordinate conjunctions, ensure that a complete sentence or independent clause follows a sentence fragment.Incorrect:

Although it was disturbing.

When he cried.

While sleeping.


He ignored what happened, although it was disturbing.

The mother hugged kid when the he cried.

She tends to talk while sleeping.
Mismatched verb tense or faulty tense sequence in the two clausesTense switching is one of the most common grammatical mistakes learners commit. This mistake happens when learners forget to use the same verb tense in both clauses.Observe the verb tense used in the first clause and ensure to apply the same tense in the second clause.Incorrect:

Priyanka is doing yoga while Saab was painting a flower.

Before he became a business owner, he is serving as an accountant at the local bank.

They judged her as though it is her fault that the machine broke.


Priyanka is doing yoga while Saab is painting a flower.

Before he became a business owner, he served as an accountant at the local bank.

They judged her as though it was her fault that the machine broke.
Subordinate Conjunctions Common Errors Table
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Learning Strategies and Best Practices for Subordinate Conjunctions

A holistic approach to learning a language makes it easier to understand and remember. The five macro skills, reading, listening, viewing, speaking, and writing, should be developed and used in the learning process for better language acquisition. The table below lists activities you can do when learning linking verbs:

Learning Strategies
Reading– Use flashcards to know basic English sight words and their meaning.
– Search for material that contains translations of common expressions from your native language to English.
– Select study materials appropriate for your language proficiency.
Listening– Listen to an audiobook or a song and write what you hear to improve your retention of English words.
– Compare and contrast two audio materials like TV ads and a speech.
– Summarize a podcast, movie, audiobook, and other English audio materials.
Viewing– Observe how native speakers speak and try to mimic it.
– Watch English movies, interviews, and tutorials.
– Use pictographs to learn and remember new words.
Speaking– Join a community of English language learners and communicate with them to improve and gain feedback.
– Integrate the language into your daily life and try to speak using English.
– Participate in speech organizations (e.g. debate clubs, theatre groups)
Writing– Write a journal of your learning journey in English.
– Answer practice tests and create your own sentences.
– Create a reflection essay on the media you watch or listen to.
Subordinate Conjunctions Learning Strategies Table

Subordinate Conjunctions Frequently Asked Questions

Subordinating conjunctions link two clauses— an independent and a dependent clause, with the latter being unable to stand on its own as it lacks a complete meaning. Hence, avoid creating sentence fragments and using them without an independent clause. For example, “Allie was late because she missed the bus.” In this sentence, “because” is the subordinating conjunction that connects the two clauses.

A subordinate clause is constructed by combining a subordinating conjunction with an independent clause. The subordinating conjunction signals a dependent and shows the relationship with the independent clause. For example, “Although Allie was late, she still managed to catch up.” In this sentence, “although” is the subordinating conjunction that introduces the subordinate clause and shows concession.

The coordinating conjunctions link two independent clauses or two grammatical structures of equal weight together. They indicate that the two clauses have equal importance and can stand alone as a sentence. Subordinating conjunctions, on the other hand, combines a subordinate clause that cannot stand on its own with an independent clause. The subordinate clause is dependent on the main clause and cannot stand alone as a sentence.

Here are five sentences with subordinate conjunction:

1. Victoria decided to move out because she wanted more independence.
2. Many guests keep on coming back, although the hotel is quite old.
3. Since it was raining, we decided to stay at home.
4. The gutter will remain blocked unless you clean it.
5. Whenever I’m feeling down, I listen to my favorite music.

The 10 most common subordinate conjunction in English are: after, although, as, because, before, if, once, since, that, and when.

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Learn from History – Follow the Science – Listen to the Experts

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