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How to use a subordinate clause

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

When crafting emails and presentations, it’s important to avoid sentence fragments. Learning where to place subordinate conjunctions and when to use commas can ensure that your grammar is top-notch, Mignon Fogarty writes at Quick and Dirty Tips. Here are some tips:

  • What are subordinating conjunctions? Subordinate clauses always start with subordinating conjunctions, hence the name. Subordinating conjunctions include words such as “since,” “because” and “while.”
  • Fragments vs. subordinate clauses. Another name for a subordinate clause is a dependent clause, because it depends on the main clause. Without a main clause, a dependent clause is a fragment. Most students are taught not to start sentences with “because” to avoid fragments. However, you can start your sentences with “because” if you follow your subordinate clause with a comma and a main clause. Done properly, your sentences should be easy to flip around.
  • Complex-compound sentences. To create a complex-compound sentence, use multiple main clauses and join them to a subordinate clause with a comma. If you’re starting the sentence with a subordinate clause, follow it with a comma, and you’ll also need a comma to join the two main clauses. If the subordinate clause is placed in the middle, you don’t need the extra comma.
  • Prepositions vs. conjunctions. There are some subordinating conjunctions that can also serve as prepositions. These include words such as “before,” “after” and “until.” To distinguish the two remember that subordinate clauses always have a subject and a verb. If one of these words is followed by a clause, it’s acting like a subordinating conjunction. How­­ever, if it’s followed by a noun or a noun phrase then it’s acting like a preposition. No matter what, if it’s at the beginning of a sentence, put a comma after it.

— Adapted from “What Is a Subordinate Clause,” Mignon Fogarty, Quick and Dirty Tips.

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