In order for the following to make sense, you need to understand the difference between a phrase and a
clause (dependent or independent).
A phrase is a group of words that does not express a complete thought. It might have a subject or a
verb, but it does not have both. As a result, the phrase does not make sense standing by itself:
Waiting at the street corner
Tired from working all day
This morning at school
By contrast, a clause has a subject and a verb that goes with the subject; a clause makes sense by itself.
John waited at the street corner.
He is tired from working all day.
The above examples are called independent clauses because they make sense on their own. However,
if you put a “dependent clause marker” (or subordinating conjunction) in front of them, they lose their
independence. They are now called dependent clauses because they need another independent clause to
make sense as part of a complex sentence.
While John waited at the street corner, (his friend looked for him at school.)
Although he is tired from working all day, (he plays ball with his kids at night).
Subordination occurs when one clause becomes logically and grammatically dependent
on another through the use of a subordinating conjunction (see box below). Once you
put a subordinating conjunction in front of a clause, that clause becomes a dependent
clause and has to be combined with a main clause in a complex sentence.
Although she was born in New Orleans, Helene spent most of her life in Ohio.
The teacher could not tell the three boys apart because they looked alike and had
the same name.
If the dependent clause precedes the main clause, you have to put a comma between
them. If the dependent clause follows the main clause, do not put a comma.
Subordination establishes logical relationships between the main clause and the
dependent clause. Subordinating clauses starting with the following conjunctions are also
called adverb clauses.
Time: after, before, once, since, until, when, whenever, while, by the time (that), as
soon as, as/so long as, every time (that), the first/last/next time (that)
Reason or cause: as, because, since, now that,
Result or Effect: in order that, so that, that
Condition: if, even if, provided that, unless, as/so long as, in case (that), in the event
(that), whether or not
Contrast: although, even though, though, whereas, while
Location: where, wherever
Choice: rather than, whether
►Did you like the sample sentences? Get the whole story in Toni Morrison’s Sula.