Explanation

A clause which is subordinate to some other part of the same sentence is a subordinate clause; for example, in The apple that I ate was sour, the clause that I ate is subordinate to apple (which it modifies).

  • That’s the street where Ben lives. [relative clause; modifies street]
  • He watched her as she disappeared. [Adverbial; modifies watched]
  • What you said was very nice. [acts as Subject of was]
  • She noticed an hour had passed. [acts as Object of noticed]

Subordinate clauses contrast with coordinate clauses as in It was sour but looked very tasty. (Contrast: main clause)

However, clauses that are directly quoted as direct speech are not subordinate clauses.

  • Not subordinate: He shouted, “Look out!”

A subordinate clause does not function as a sentence on its own but functions instead as part of a larger clause. For example, in the sentence I believe that we will have a hot summer the clause that we will have a hot summer is a subordinate clause functioning as part of the larger main clause: it is the Direct Object of the verb believe.

Subordinate clauses in sentences

The Activity page appears in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. The slide in the Activity page can be displayed on a projector or smart board.

On the slide are several subordinate clauses, including finite and nonfinite clauses. Ask your students to compose 10 new sentences, each containing at least one of the subordinate clauses. Encourage them to use more than one subordinate clause in a sentence.

There are some strong grammatical patterns that guide us. For example, compare:

Subordinate clauses in sentences: Activity

Try to construct 10 new sentences, each containing one or more of these subordinate clauses.

Sentence generator

What did you and your family do on the holidays? In this activity you will experiment with our special sentence generator which reports on some unusual holiday happenings.

Sentence generator: Activity

Click on each column to scroll up and down, and make different combinations.

Click on the dice at the top of the columns to get a new random ordering of elements.

In slide 2, re-order elements by clicking within a column and dragging to left or right (or by clicking on the arrows at the tops of the columns).

Sentences with 'because'

In this activity, students practise composing sentences with the word because.

Goals

  • Identify the causal relationship that underlies use of because.
  • Compose some reasonable sentences using because.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will practise using the word because.

Sentences with 'because': Activity

I'm wearing wellies.
Why?
Because it's raining.

I'm wearing wellies
because
it's raining.

You're it.
Why?
Because I tagged you.

Sentences with 'if'

In this activity, students practise composing sentences with the word if.

Goals

  • Rehearse an implicit understanding of the conditional meaning of if.
  • Practise composing sentences using if.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will practise writing sentences with the word if.

Sentences with 'if': Activity

If you're wearing red, raise your hand.

If you're wearing blue, stomp your feet.

If you're wearing velcro, scratch your head.

If you have a zipper on your clothes, scratch your ear.

If you're the tallest one, wiggle your nose.

Subordinate or main clause?

Try to identify which clauses can stand on their own (click Main) or those which can’t (click Subordinate). The capitals and punctuation marks have been removed to make this slightly less obvious.

Y6 GPaS Test: Identify the subordinate clause

Find the subordinate clause in a range of examples

Identify the subordinate clauses in each of the following examples. Click on the words that comprise the subordinate clause to select or deselect them.

Y6 GPaS Test: Subordinate clause?

Select whether the example sentence contains a subordinate clause or not.

Clauses: Finite and nonfinite clauses

Look at each of these examples. Do they have present tense or past tense? Can we change the tense?

  • She feels sick.
  • I was watching TV.

In the first example, we have the present tense verb form feels. We could change to past tense: She felt sick.

In the second example, the verb phrase was watching contains the past tense form was. We could change to the present tense: I am watching TV.

Clauses: Further guidance for teachers

Modern grammatical descriptions of English differ in some ways from the accounts in traditional grammars. This can sometimes lead to confusion. Here we note a few important differences in relation to the analysis of clauses and sentences.

Clauses: Main and subordinate clauses

Typically, a clause expresses a particular situation – an event or state of affairs. To do this, it usually needs to contain a verb. Here is an example of a clause:

  • My brother phoned my cousin on Tuesday night.

This expresses an event, with the verb phoned indicating the type of event.

Here are some more examples of clauses, with the verb phrases highlighted:

Clauses: Relative clauses

Look at the highlighted clauses in these examples. What do they add to the meaning of the sentences?

Sentence types: simple, compound, complex

This unit further explains simple sentences, compound sentences and complex sentences, which were introduced in the unit 'Clauses: main and subordinate'. Simple sentences contain one clause, while compound and complex sentences contain more than one clause.

National Curriculum note: The National Curriculum now refers to sentences that contain one clause as single-clause sentences, and those that contain more than one clause as multi-clause sentences.

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