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Subordinate Conjunctions


A CONJUNCTION is a word that connects or joins together words, phrases, clauses, or sentences. There are two kinds of conjunctions, a primary class of COORDINATING conjunctions and a secondary class called SUBORDINATING or SUBORDINATE conjunctions. There are also words called CONJUNCTIVE ADVBERBS; these conjunctive adverbs sometimes act a bit like conjunctions, but at other times act like plain old adverbs. We will explore each type, one at a time.

The following chart lists the most common types of conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs.

COORDINATING CONJUNCTIONS
(Coordinating conjunctions connect two equal parts of a sentence.)
 
PURE CONJUNCTIONS

and
but
for
nor
or
so
yet

CONJUNCTIVE ADVERBS


accordingly
in fact
again
instead
also
likewise
besides
moreover
consequently
namely
finally
nevertheless
for example
otherwise
further
still
furthermore
that is
hence
then
however
therefore
indeed
thus


SUBORDINATE CONJUNCTIONS
(Subordinate conjunctions connect two unequal parts, e.g., dependent and independent clauses)

after
since
when
although
so that
whenever
as
supposing
where
because
than
whereas
before
that
wherever
but that
though
whether
if
though
which
in order that
till
while
lest
unless
who
no matter
until
why
how
what
even though

NOTE 1: Conjunctive adverbs are sometimes used as simple adverbs. If they do not connect independent clauses, they are not conjunctive adverbs. Then, they are merely adverbs modifying a verb, adjective, or another adverb. For instance, in the sentences below, the words accordingly, still, and instead are adverbs. When functioning this way, the adverb needs no punctuation to separate it from the surrounding material. For example, see the following sentences:
I knew the test would be hard, so I planned accordingly to study for several hours.
I was still studying at six o'clock in the evening!
Joey decided to go to a party instead.

In these examples above, there is no comma needed before the words accordingly, still, and instead. That's because they are acting like adverbs, modifying verbs like planned and was studying, and decided.

The tricky part is that these same adverbs can also transform into conjunctive adverbs. Conjunctive adverbs can be used with a comma to introduce a new independent clause, or they can help connect two independent clauses together after a semicolon. Typically, each conjunctive adverb is followed by a comma. For example, look at the comma usage below:

Joey had an upset stomach. Accordingly, he took antacid tablets.
Joey had an upset stomach; accordingly, he took antacid tablets.
The antacids must not have worked. Otherwise, he would quit complaining.
The antacids must not have worked; otherwise, he would quit complaining.
The antacids didn't work for Jill either. Instead, they made her feel even more sick.
The antacids didn't work for Jill either; instead, they made her feel even more sick.

Here, the conjuctive adverb helps connect the ideas of the two sentences together. Note also that after a semicolon, the word beginning the next independent clauses needs no capitalization.


NOTE 2: (In Four Parts)

(A) Two independent clauses can be joined by a comma and a pure conjunction. However, a comma by itself will not work. (Using a comma without a conjunction to hook together two sentences creates a comma splice!)

[Independent Clause] , pure conjunction [independent clause] .
Examples: The gods thundered in the heavens, and the mortals below cowered in fear.
I dodged the bullet, but Joey was shot seventeen times in the tibia.
Susan appreciated the flowers, yet a Corvette would be a finer gift.


(B) Two independent clauses joined by a conjunctive adverb are separated by a semicolon. However, the writer still needs to insert a comma after the conjunctive adverb.
[Independent clause] ; conjunctive adverb , [independent clause] .
Examples: The gods thundered in the heavens; furthermore, the mortals below cowered in fear.
The bank robber dodged the bullet; however, Joey was shot seventeen times in the tibia.
Susan appreciated the flowers; nevertheless, a Corvette would be a finer a gift.


(C) Two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction are separated by a semicolon.
[Independent clause] ; [independent clause] .
Examples: The gods thundered in the heavens; the mortals below cowered in fear.
The bank robber dodged the bullet; Joey was shot seventeen times in the tibia.
Susan appreciated the flowers; a Corvette would be a finer gift.

In the examples above, you can see that the semicolon does the same job as both a comma and a conjunction.


(D) A dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence is introductory, and like most bits of introductory material, it is usually followed by comma. A dependent clause following the main (independent) clause is usually not punctuated.

Examples Using Introductory Clauses:
While the gods thundered in the heavens, the mortals below cowered in fear.
As the bank robber dodged the bullet, Joey was shot seventeen times in the tibia.
Though Susan appreciated the flowers, a Corvette would be a finer gift.
 
But on the other hand, no punctuation is necessary for the dependent clause following the main clause:
The gods thundered in the heavens as mortals below cowered in fear.
The bank robber dodged the bullet while Joey was shot seventeen times in the tibia.
Susan appreciated the flowers even though a Corvette would be a finer gift.

NOTE 3: By placing a subordinate conjunction in front of any independent clause, the writer transforms a perfectly good sentence into a fragment! Be careful, and use your conjunctions wisely. In the sentence fragments below, the clauses are dependent. To fix the problem, the grammarian must either connect them to another clause or delete the subordinate conjunction (in blue).
 
Sentence fragments caused by subordinate conjunctions:
As mortals cowered in fear.
While Joey was shot seventeen times in the tibia.
Although a Corvette would be a finer gift.

 

 
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