Glossary: subordination

Sub-topics

Explanation

The relationship between two elements of unequal grammatical status, often linked by a subordinate conjunction.

A subordinate word or phrase tells us more about the meaning of the word it is subordinate to. Subordination can be thought of as an unequal relationship between a subordinate word and a main word. For example:

  • an adjective is subordinate to the noun it modifies
  • Subjects and Objects are subordinate to their verbs.
  • big dogs [big is subordinate to dogs]
  • Big dogs need long walks. [big dogs and long walks are subordinate to need]
  • We can watch TV when we’ve finished. [when we’ve finished is subordinate to watch]

Subordination is much more common than the equal relationship of coordination.

See also subordinate clause.

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