What are Clauses?

It is helpful to take things back to basics and look at what we mean by the term clause to understand subordinate clauses and how to define them.

Clauses are the building blocks of sentences. A clause is a group of words that contain a subject (a noun or pronoun) and a verb (a doing word).

What is a subordinate clause for kids?

A subordinate clause is a clause that can’t stand alone as a complete sentence. Instead, it’s linked to the main clause using a subordinating conjunction. It doesn’t express a complete thought and requires additional information when read independently.

You might also be wondering, well, what is a dependent clause? A dependent clause is the same as a subordinate clause. They’re just two different names for the same thing.

For example, in the sentence ‘I played out until it went dark,’ the phrase ‘until it went dark’ is the subordinate clause because it requires additional information to make sense. Subordinate clauses contain a subject noun and a verb.

When a sentence contains a subclause, we call it a complex or multi-clause sentence. You can remember some of the most valuable conjunctions using the acronym ‘I SAW A WABUB.’

  • I – if
  • S – since
  • A – as
  • W – when
  • A – although
  • W – while
  • A – After
  • B – before
  • U – until
  • B – because

What is a subordinate clause’s function?

Subordinate clauses can act as adverbs, adjectives, or nouns (which we will explore in more detail below). They complement a sentence’s main clause, adding to the overall unit of meaning. Subordinate clauses can also help establish the time sequence, causality, or a specific example of the idea.

Whether you use the term subordinate or dependent to describe this type of clause, the clause’s function remains the same: it provides additional information to support the main event of the sentence.

Examples of subordinate clauses in a sentence

Subordinate clauses can be found at the start, the middle, and the end of a sentence.

  • While the rooster crowed loudly, the chicken laid eggs.
  • The chicken, who was busy laying eggs, sat happily.
  • The chicken laid eggs while the rooster crowed loudly.

In the first and third examples, ‘while the rooster crowed loudly’ is the subordinate clause. In the second, ‘who was busy laying eggs’ is the subordinate.

You may also notice that when your subordinate clause is in the middle of a sentence, it’s separated by commas. It is because this type of subordinate clause is embedded in the sentence.

Here are some more dependent clause examples:

  • As the girl stood at the top of the hill, she sighed wistfully.
  • She sighed wistfully as she looked over the mountain.
  • The girl, who was looking over the hill, sighed wistfully.
  • While he was waiting, he decided to read his book.
  • He decided to read his book while he was staying.
  • The boy, while he was waiting, decided to read his book.
  • As he wagged his tail happily, the dog trotted down the road.
  • The dog trotted down the road and wagged his tail happily.
  • The dog, who was wagging his tail, trotted down the road.
  • Although no one ever entered it, the house had stood there for years.
  • The house had stood there for years, although no one ever entered.
  • The house, which no one ever entered, had stood there for years.

Subordinate clauses for kids

Teaching children about subordinate clauses is an excellent way of improving their reading and writing skills. A solid understanding of how subordinate clauses work enables children to read more complex texts and add extra detail to their writing.

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