Thursday, June 9, 2011

Editing Ninja: Going Subordinate

Your teachers lied to you.

Probably.

If they were like mine, they told you never to begin a sentence with "because". Lies and deceit, I tell you. Lies and deceit.

Remember last week's post about clauses? Today we're going to talk about dependent clauses (otherwise known as subordinate clauses). Every dependent (or subordinate clause) will start with either a subordinate conjunction or relative pronoun (I've listed common ones at the bottom of the post). Break the word subordinate down, and you'll understand why these clauses can't stand on their own. (sub=beneath, under, below and ordinate means in order, so these clauses are less than a sentence, got it?) The word dependent is fairly easy to understand, too: These clauses depend on something else to make a complete thought.

Every subordinate or dependent clause will have a subject and verb like a real, grown up sentence, but the subordinate conjunction or relative pronoun will knock it down a peg. Here's the basic formula:

subordinate conjunction + sentence = subordinate (dependent) clause

or

relative pronoun + sentence = subordinate (dependent) clause

Last week's example When Bob went to the store for a drink of water is a subordinate clause because of the word when. Without when, it's a sentence, see:

Bob went to the store for a drink of water.

Now here's how your teachers lied. If they were like most of mine, they told you never to begin a sentence with because (one of the more popular subordinate conjunctions). You are welcome to start with a subordinate conjunction (and therefore clause) as long as you attach an independent clause to make a complete sentence.

Let's work with Bob.

Bob bought a bottle of water because he was thirsty.

Here you have an independent clause (Bob bought a bottle of water) and a subordinate clause (because + he was thirsty).

English syntax allows you to rearrange these clauses when you have a subordinate and independent clause.

Because he was thirsty, Bob bought a bottle of water.

Beautiful, right? Wait. Wait. WAIT. I started a sentence with because! Ah, but I finished it with an independent clause tacked onto the subordinate clause with a comma. Yes, you can do that.

Because he was thirsty is not a complete thought. Because he was thirsty, Bob bought a bottle of water is. Your teachers (if they were like mine) wanted to avoid the messy "subordinate clause masquerading as a sentence" situation. How could you explain a mess like that to a third grader?

Here's a list of common subordinate conjunctions and relative pronouns. Should you need more help, you know where I live (on the 'net). Don't hesitate to contact me.

Subordinate Conjunctions:

after
although
as
because
before
even if
even though
if
in order that
once
provided that
rather than
since
so that
than
that
though
unless until
when
whenever
where
whereas
wherever
whether
while
why

Relative Pronouns:

that
which
whichever
who
whoever
whom
whose
whosever
whomever

(Yeah, like anybody uses "whosever" anymore...)

Next week, we get crazy with the FANBOYS.

5 comments:

Indigo said...

Seriously? No kidding, I've been breaking the rules for years now. Why yes, I do call myself a writer. ;P.

I think sometimes people are so afraid to play with the rules and take chances, their writing becomes boring diatribe. (Hugs)Indigo

AnthonyJRapino said...

I know I said this last time, but I'm seriously going to copy these and use them in my classes. :-)

Ohhh, fanboys? This should be good.

Danielle Ferries said...

Yes, I remember being told that, and I've ignored it a lot over the years.

Cate Gardner said...

I think I get it. I need to revist this post with a clearer head. ;)

Natalie L. Sin said...

That title sounds sexy : ) And fanboys!