What is a subordinate clause? A subordinate clause is added onto the main clause to form a complex sentence. Subordinate clauses add more information to the main clause and do not make sense on their own.

For example:

  • My sister, who is older than me, is a doctor.

In this sentence ‘who is older than me’ is the subordinate clause as it adds more information to the sentence, but it would not make sense alone.

Subordinate clauses either begin with a subordinate conjunction or with a relative pronoun.  The subordinate clause above begins with a relative pronoun ‘who’, so it is called a relative clause.

Here are some examples of subordinate conjunctions:

  • After, although, because, before, whereas, whenever, who, whether, while, unless, if, why.

Subordinate clauses don’t always come after the main clause, for example:

  • After I get home, Dad is taking the dog for a walk with me.

In this sentence, the subordinate clause begins with a subordinate conjunction (‘After’) and comes before the main clause, highlighted in blue.

It is important to remember to separate the main clause and the subordinate clause correctly using a comma.

Why is it important to learn about subordinate clauses?

Children start to learn about subordinate clauses in Year 2 when they also learn how to form complex sentences.

It is important that children are comfortable with subordinate clauses, as they are useful when combining two ideas in a single sentence.

Notice how the two simple sentences below can become one sentence by using the subordinate conjunction ‘when’.

  • Dominic screamed loudly. A giant spider ran across the ceiling.
  • Dominic screamed loudly when a giant spider ran across the ceiling.

Using subordinate clauses will improve the flow and quality of a child’s writing.

How to help children with subordinate clauses?

As subordinate clauses are added to the main clause in a sentence, it can be good practice to get children to make a simple sentence more exciting by adding a subordinate clause. For example:

, I will buy you the cinema ticket.

If you do all your homework, I will buy you the cinema ticket.

, the food was amazing.

Although they overcooked it, the food was amazing.

How does Learning Street help children with subordinate clauses?

Clauses are an area where secure knowledge is essential if children are to make progress with their writing.

Learning Street courses help children to learn about and use subordinate clauses through delivering properly planned and structured work which ensures learning actually happens.

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