Writing Tools Subordinate Clause

The Subordinate Clause

Recognize a subordinate clause when you see one.

A subordinate clause—also called a dependent clause—will begin with a subordinate conjunction or a relative pronoun and will contain both a subject and a verb. This combination of words will not form a complete sentence. It will instead make a reader want additional information to finish the thought.

Here is a list of subordinate conjunctions:

Subordinate Conjunctions
even if
even though
in order that
provided that
rather than
so that

Here are your relative pronouns:

Relative Pronouns

Now take a look at these examples:

After Amy sneezed all over the tuna salad

After = subordinate conjunction; Amy = subject; sneezed = verb.

Once Adam smashed the spider

Once = subordinate conjunction; Adam = subject; smashed = verb.

Until Mr. Sanchez has his first cup of coffee

Until = subordinate conjunction; Mr. Sanchez = subject; has = verb.

Who ate handfuls of Cheerios with his bare hands

Who = relative pronoun; Who = subject; ate = verb.

Remember this important point: A subordinate clause cannot stand alone as a sentence because it does not provide a complete thought. The reader is left wondering, “So what happened?” A word group that begins with a capital letter and ends with a period must contain at least one main clause. Otherwise, you will have written a fragment, a major error.

After Amy sneezed all over the tuna salad.

So what happened? Did Amy throw it down the garbage disposal or serve it on toast to her friends? No complete thought = fragment.

Once Adam smashed the spider.

So what happened? Did Belinda cheer him for his bravery or lecture him on animal rights? No complete thought = fragment.

Until Mr. Sanchez has his first cup of coffee.

So what happens? Is he too sleepy to work, or does he have a grumpy disposition? No complete thought = fragment.

Who ate handfuls of Cheerios with his bare hands.

So what happened? Were the roommates shocked, or did they ask him to pass the box so that they could do the same? No complete thought = fragment.

Correctly attach a subordinate clause to a main clause.

When you attach a subordinate clause in front of  a main clause, use a comma, like this:

Subordinate Clause + , + Main Clause.

Even though the broccoli was covered in cheddar cheese, Emily refused to eat it.

Unless Christine finishes her calculus homework, she will have to suffer Mr. Nguyen’s wrath in class tomorrow.

While Bailey slept on the sofa in front of the television, Samson, the family dog, gnawed on the leg of the coffee table.

When you attach a subordinate clause at the end of a main clause, you will generally use no punctuation, like this:

Main Clause + Ø + Subordinate Clause.

Tanya did poorly on her history exam Ø because her best friend Giselle insisted on gossiping during their study session the night before.

Jonathon spent his class time reading comic books Ø since his average was a 45 one week before final exams.

Diane decided to plant tomatoes in the back of the yard Ø where the sun blazed the longest during the day.

Punctuate carefully when the subordinate clause begins with a relative pronoun.

Subordinate clauses can begin with relative pronouns [and thus are called relative clauses, a type of subordinate clause]. When a subordinate clause starts with who, whose, or which, for example, punctuation gets a little bit trickier. Sometimes you will need a comma, and sometimes you won’t, depending on whether the clause is essential or nonessential.

When the information in the relative clause clarifies an otherwise general noun, the clause is essential and will follow the same pattern that you saw above:

Main Clause + Ø + Essential Relative Clause.

Nick gave a handful of potato chips to the dog Ø who was sniffing around the picnic tables.

Dog is a general noun. Which one are we talking about? The relative clause who was sniffing around the picnic tables clarifies the animal that we mean. The clause is thus essential and requires no punctuation.

When a relative clause follows a specific noun, punctuation changes. The information in the relative clause is no longer as important, and the clause becomes nonessential. Nonessential clauses require you to use commas to connect them.

Main Clause + , + Nonessential Relative Clause.

Nick gave a handful of potato chips to Button , who was sniffing around the picnic tables.

Button, the name of a unique dog, lets us know which animal we mean. The information in the relative clause is no longer important and needs to be separated from the main clause with a comma.

Relative clauses can also interrupt a main clause. When this happens, use no punctuation for an essential clause. If the clause is nonessential, separate it with a comma in front and a comma behind. Take a look at these examples:

After dripping mustard all over his chest, the man Ø who was wearing a red shirt Ø wished that he had instead chosen ketchup for his hotdog.

After dripping mustard all over his chest, Charles, who was wearing a red shirt, wished that he had instead chosen ketchup for his hotdog.

Use subordination to combine ideas effectively.

Writers use subordination to combine two ideas in a single sentence. Read these two simple sentences:

Rhonda gasped. A six-foot snake slithered across the sidewalk.

Since the two simple sentences are related, you can combine them to express the action more effectively:

Rhonda gasped when a six-foot snake slithered across the sidewalk.

If the two ideas have unequal importance, save the most important one for the end of the sentence so that your reader remembers it best. If we rewrite the example above so that the two ideas are flipped, the wrong point gets emphasized:

When a six-foot snake slithered across the side walk, Rhonda gasped.

A reader is less concerned with Rhonda’s reaction than the presence of a giant snake on the sidewalk!



Grammar Bytes

Writing Tools: Gerunds

Writing Tools: Gerunds

Below is a recap of Writing Tools #5: Gerunds. Gerunds and Infinitives as Writing Tools are structured in a similar fashion. Take time to apply these in assigned 10 Minute Journal Writing to gain more experience with them to master them over time.

Writing Tool #5: Gerund:

  • A verb ending in “-ing”
  • First word in the sentence
  • Gerund is the subject, acting as a noun


Walking is effective exercise for old people.

Create your own sentence.



Jogging each day strengthens endurance.

Create your own sentence.



Reading horror stories may cause nightmare.

Create your own sentence.


Compare the the Structure of Gerunds and Infinitives

It is easy switch the writing tool of gerunds and infinitives because both features act as the subject. Listed below are examples of Infinitives inspired from the sentences above.


To jog each day strengthens endurance

 To walk is effective.

 To read stories may cause nightmares.

An Introduction to Intros

daily class work

Prompt: What is the most important needed skill for academic success in 8th grade?

academic success – Big idea

in 8th grade? – Focus

Brainstorming: What is academic success? What does it consist of?

An Introduction to Writing Introductions  

  • Basic Requirements:
    • Length: 4 – 6 Sentences. (Your conclusion must mirror the length)
    • First Sentence: A reference to a “big idea” (Not restating a prompt)
      • It can never be a quote
      • It can never be a question in formal writing
    • Second Sentence: More information about the “big idea”
    • Third Sentence: a Bridge Statement
    • Fourth Sentence: background information on issue/topic related to “big idea”
      • 3rd and 4th Sentence can be switched depending on cohesion of ideas
    • Fifth/Last Sentence: ALWAYS the thesis statement

Funnel Intro Parahraphs

Repetition in Literature: 3 Important Rhetorical Devices


These three important rhetorical devices help deepen the annotation process. All three presented are forms of repetition. When you annotate you want to build a relationship with the text and read for understanding, to make connections, and to reveal independent thinking and communicate your observations about text.

A question I often get from students is,

“How do I know what to annotate in a passage?”

This is a great questions.

The answer goes back to your knowledge of literary devices.  The quality of your annotations for the sake of literary analysis is only as strong as your understanding of literary devices and rhetorical devices before you read.

This post is meant to strengthen you annotations skills by equipping you with three more rhetorical devices you will look for in future texts.  The best way to develop the skill of annotation and ultimately literary analysis is practice.

Annotate every piece of text you can!

3 Rhetorical Devices for Identifying Repetition.

  • Anaphota
  • Epistrophe
  • Tricolon

While the first two, anaphora and epistrophe address the repetition of words or phrases, tricolon presents a repetition of structure.

Investigate each of theses repetitive patterns below.


Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of the sentence.


  • Every day, every night, in every way, I am getting better and better.”
  • My life is my purpose. My life is my goal. My life is my inspiration.”
  • “Buying diapers for the baby, feeding the baby, playing with the baby: This is what your life is when you have a baby.”
  • “I want my money right now, right here, all right?”
  • “The wrong person was selected for the wrong job, at the wrong time, for the wrong purpose.”
  • “Their property was sold, their homestead was sold, and their everything was sold for want.”
  • Who is to blame, who is to look to, who is to turn to, in a tough situation like this.”
  • “In adversity, his close friends left him, his close colleagues left him, and his best close relatives left him.”
  • Everything looked dark and bleak, everything looked gloomy, and everything was under a blanket of mist.”
  • All the people were moving in the same direction; all the people were thinking about the same thing; and all the people were discussing the same topic.”
  • “After a long term of studies, the students wanted to go home, they wanted to play, and they wanted to meet their parents and friends.”
  • The players were much exited for the tour; the players wished to do a lot of shopping; the players planned to go sightseeing.”
  • The young writer was given the award for his best seller. The young writer was exited to get the reward, and he decided to celebrate the occasion in a fitting manner.”






Enhanced Annotation with the Aristotelian Triangle

Ethos pathos Logos


The Rhetorical Transaction :

According to Aristotle, the rhetorical transaction consists of three basic components:

Ethos (Author/Point of View)

representing the author’s ability to reveal his or her credibility in the text, demonstrates ethics

  • Note how the author establishes a persona
  • Note how the author establishes credibility

· Note any revelation of the author’s credentials or personal history

Pathos (Intended Audience)

representing the author’s ability to appeal to the audience through the text through the use of emotions and other methods

  • Note the primary audience for the text
  • Note the emotional appeals the author makes
  • Note the author’s expectations of the audience


Logos (Text/Language)

representing the author’s ability to reveal logic and reason in the text;

  • Note the claims the author makes, the exigency.

· Note the data the author provides in support of the claims.

  • Note the conclusions the author draws.

When reading nonfiction, note the language the author uses to establish logos, ethos, and pathos.Annotating everything you read for the Rhetorical Appeals, also called modes of persuasion, will reveal information about the author, the author’s purpose, and the author’s methods of persuasion and argumentation.


Your goal: apply these new annotation tools to a primary document…




Martin Luther King, I have a Dream Analysis



More Possibilities for Analysis: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

How to Structure an Essay

How to structure Essay

So you’re wondering how to structure and essay…

If you’ve mastered the basic paragraph structure, you can easily transfer this knowledge of macro-structures to a lengthier composition.

In the video below you’ll learn how to structure an your essay, including the best way to generate an introduction and conclusion to strengthen focus in your writing.


Here’ How You Will Use the Video Below


Watch the video below the first time WITHOUT taking notes. Just watch to get a wide perspective of what’s being addressed.

THEN… watch it a second time, taking notes. The second time…

  • record notes as you watch
  • start and stop the video as needed
  • consider creating graphics or visuals with your notes
  • record any connections you make between the structure of a paragraph and the structure of an essay

How to Structure an Essay: Introduction, Body Paragraphs, Conclusion