A subordinate, or dependent, clause is similar to a main clause, but it is not a complete thought. 

The subordinate clause

How to Spot a Subordinate Clause

Subordinate clauses typically begin with subordinating conjunctions, relative pronouns, or relative adverbs.

Subordinating Conjunction Examples

after although as because
before even though if provided that
since though unless until
when while whenever whereas

The seals sing mournful songs at sunset because they fear the night.

The seals sing mournful songs at sunset = main clause

The seals is the subject, and sing is the verb.

because they fear the night = subordinate clause

They is the subject, and fear is the verb. It is subordinate because it begins with the subordinating conjunction because.

Relative Pronoun Examples

that who whose which
whoever whom whomever whichever

The cow. . . is a master hypnotist  = main clause

The cow is the subject, and is is the verb.

who let me win the staring contest  = subordinate clause

Who is the relative pronoun and subject, and let is the verb.


Relative Adverbs

when where why

Aliens prefer dabbing when there is a full moon.

Aliens prefer dabbing = main clause

Aliens is the subject, and prefer is the verb.

when there is a full moon = subordinate clause

There is the subject, and is is the verb. This clause starts with the relative adverb when, so it is subordinate.

Need more help identifying subordinate clauses? Complete the practice exercises in this video!

Main and Subordinate Clauses Quiz

Ready to test your knowledge of subordinate clauses? Try the main and subordinate clauses quiz!


Main Clauses
Subordinate Clauses
How to Fix Run-on Sentences
Comma Splices