Writing Guide: How to Use Subordinate Clauses

To recap, a“subordinate clause” includes a noun and a verb but is not a standalone sentence. Why not? A subordinate clause uses “subordinating conjunctions” (words like “since,” “while,” and “although”) that require an “independent clause” before or after.

Don’t worry if that’s confusing. The real point is that you should use subordinate clauses. Here’s how:

Use subordinate clauses to contextualize the central point—and smoothly lead the reader from one idea to the next.

Depending on the context, consider incorporating the following subordinating conjunctions:

Cause/effect: “Because,” “since”

Time: “When,” “After,” “Before,” “On account of,” “While”

Use subordinate clauses to acknowledge and address counterpoint

Tension words: “While,” “Whereas,” “Despite,” “Although,” “Even Though”

Be careful of commas

○ These can precede the independent clause — but must be followed by a comma. (“Although he didn’t know how to write, he used a guide.”

○ These can follow the independent clause — but must not be preceded by a comma! (“He used a guide although he didn’t know how to write).