Dependent Clauses‏‎ in English Grammar

A Dependent Clause (aka Subordinate Clause) is a clause that doesn’t make sense fully on its own and always needs an independent clause‏‎ to express a complete thought and make a complete sentence‏‎.

These, for example, are dependent clauses:

* whenever I see her

* rather than take the bus

* even though she is very rich

* an asterisk at the beginning denotes and ungrammatical sentence or sequence

Standing on their own like this, they leave too many questions unanswered and we can’t really understand what the speaker is trying to say. However, when put with an independent clause they make sense:

I feel all warm inside + whenever I see her.

Rather than take the bus + why don’t you walk?

She never pays her fair share + even though she’s very rich.

Introducing Dependent Clauses

Dependent clauses can be introduced by a subordinating conjunction‏‎:

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

or by a relative pronoun:

that, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, whose, whomever, whomsoever

Form of Dependent Clauses

As we said above, If you put either a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun in front of a clause you get an incomplete sentence:

* Even though the man smiled.

In other words, you need an independent clause to make sense of the whole thing. This can usually come either before or after the subordinate clause:

{independent clause} + {subordinate clause}

I walked away + even though the man smiled.

{subordinate clause} + {independent clause}

Even though the man smiled + I walked away.

Dependent Clauses and TEFL

Is it worth going into the deep grammar of subordinate clauses with your TEFL class?

The answer is: probably not. Most students won’t need to know the details of how to form a subordinate clause and whether it’s introduced by a subordinate conjunction or relative pronoun.

Instead, it’s probably easier to wait until the situation arises. Suppose a student writes this, for example:

I left home early. I arrived at school late.

Just talk about an appropriate conjunction to join these two to make the ideas in them closer. There’s no need to explain what kind of clauses they are as long as the student understands how the conjunction actually joins them:

Although I left home early, I arrived at school late.

I arrived at school late even though I left home early.

And if a student writes a subordinate clause as though it were a full sentence like this:

While I’m waiting.

…then you just need to explain that when a word like while or but etc… (i.e. a subordinating conjunction) is used you need two clauses together so either get rid of the conjunction or add another (appropriate) clause:

I’m waiting.

I’ll read the paper while I’m waiting.

Useful Links

Coordination‏‎ & Subordination in English Grammar – a general look at this idea in English grammar

Subordinating Conjunctions‏‎ in English Grammar – how to introduce subordinate clauses in a sentence

Relative Pronouns – how to introduce subordinate clauses in a sentence

Did you know that if you subscribe to our website, you will receive email notifications whenever content changes or new content is added.
1. Enter your e-mail address below and click the Sign Me Up button.
2. You will receive an email asking you to confirm your intention of subscribing to our site.
3. Click the link in the email to confirm. That’s all there is to it!

Enter your email address below to subscribe to IWeb TEFL.

Note: if you wish to unsubscribe from our site, click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email you received.
Then indicate you no longer wish to receive our emails.

Thank You
IWeb TEFL Team

Posted in Sentence Structure.

Leave a Reply