The Subordinate Clause

Are you ready to learn about the subordinate clause (a.k.a. dependent clause)? Let's start by talking about the definition of a clause.

clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb. Subjects tell us whom or what a sentence is about and verbs tell us what the subject is or does. Here are two clauses.

I sharpened my pencil.

Whenever I sharpened my pencil

Both of those clauses have a subject (I) and a verb (sharpened). The top clause can stand alone as a complete idea, but the bottom clause cannot.

The bottom clause is subordinate. Subordinate means that it can't stand alone. It needs to be connected to an independent clause in order to make sense.

A subordinate clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb, that cannot stand alone. Here's the important thing to know about these guys. Are you ready?

* They act as single parts of speech. *

That was short and sweet. You'll want to remember that because it's important. They can act as adjectives, adverbs, or nouns.


Types of Subordinate Clauses

Dependent clauses act in certain ways. They can act in three different ways to be precise.

1. Adjective (Relative) Clause

2. Adverb Clause

3. Noun Clause

We'll briefly go over each type of clause below. Click on the links to learn more!


1. Adjective Clauses (Relative Clauses)

As you might guess, an adjective clause is a dependent clause that acts as an adjective. They are introduced by special words called relative pronouns or relative adverbs.

The woman who looked happy danced.

Who looked happy is a dependent adjective clause. It is a group of words with a subject (who) and a verb (looked), and the whole clause is functioning as an adjective modifying the noun woman, which is the subject of the independent clause.


2. Adverb Clauses

An adverb clause is a dependent clause that acts as an adverb. These are introduced by special words called subordinating conjunctions.

I read because I love stories.

Because I love stories is a dependent adverb clause. It has a subject (I) and a verb (love), and the whole clause is functioning as one adverb modifying the verb read in the independent clause.

Elliptical clauses are types of clauses that have some implied words. Most of the time, they are adverb clauses.

David is faster than his brother.

Than his brother is an elliptical clause. It's as if the clause says:

David is faster than his brother (is) (fast).

Than his brother (is) (fast) is a dependent adverbial elliptical clause. Wow! That's a mouthful!

It is a group of words with a subject (brother) and a verb (is), and the whole clause is acting as an adverb modifying the adjective faster in the independent clause.


3. Noun Clauses

noun clause is a dependent clause that acts as a noun.

Sometimes, these are introduced by certain kinds of words called noun clause markers, and sometimes they don't have any introductory word at all.

Whatever you want is fine with me.

Whatever you want is a dependent noun clause is acting as the subject of the sentence. It is a group of words with a subject (you) and a verb (want), and it is functioning as a noun. It is performing the job of the subject.

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There you go! Now you know all about dependent clauses!

Understand the subordinate clause? Go back to clauses.

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