A Simple Grammar Guide to Subordinating Conjunctions
  • 4-minute read
  • 11th April 2023

A Simple Grammar Guide to Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions can seem intimidating, but they are super important for building complex sentences in your writing and speech. In this simple grammar guide, you’ll learn all about them and how to use them in a sentence.

What are Subordinating Conjunctions?

In English grammar, a subordinating conjunction is used to join two clauses, where one clause (the subordinate/dependent clause) depends on the other (the main/independent clause) for its meaning. Subordinating conjunctions show the relationship between the two clauses and indicate that one is subordinate or less important than the other. For example:

I can come over unless traffic is heavy.

We went for a walk even though it was freezing.

He needs to go home since it’s so late.

Subordinating conjunctions help create complex sentences by joining clauses of unequal importance, where the subordinate clause provides additional information, clarification, or conditions to the main clause. It’s important to use them correctly to convey clear and accurate meaning in your writing or speech.

How to Use Subordinating Conjunctions in a Sentence

A subordinating conjunction always begins a subordinate clause, which can go at the beginning of the sentence or in the middle, as shown in the examples above. If it starts the sentence, a comma should go before the main clause. For example:

Unless traffic is heavy, I can come over.

Even though it was freezing, we went for a walk.

Since it’s so late, he needs to go home.

7 Types of Subordinating Conjunctions

Now, we’ll talk about seven types of subordinating conjunctions with examples. Keep in mind that one subordinating conjunction may fall under two or more types. This is why it’s important to be able to identify the type of relationship you have between the clauses in your sentence.


Subordinating conjunctions such as “after,” “before,” “since,” “while,” and “when” are used to indicate time relationships between independent and dependent clauses.

After I finish dinner, I’ll do my homework.

I went to the store before coming home.

When you arrive, we’ll talk.

Cause and Effect

Subordinating conjunctions such as “because,” “since,” “as,” “so,” “so that,” “provided that,” and “though” can be used to show a cause and effect relationship between independent and dependent clauses.

I can’t go running this morning because I injured my ankle yesterday.

I need to study harder since I got a poor grade on my last exam.


Conditional subordinating conjunctions include “if,” “unless,” or “provided that”. They are used to express conditions under which something may or may not happen.

I can see you later if I finish my work early.

She will come over unless there is heavy traffic.


“Although,” “though,” “even though,” “while,” and “whereas” are examples of subordinating conjunctions that show contrast or opposition between independent and dependent clauses.

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She is quite tall for a woman whereas her husband is a bit short.

Even though we don’t see each other often, she is my best friend.

Reason and Purpose

Subordinating conjunctions such as “so that,” “so as,” and “in order that” (formal usage) are used to express a reason or purpose.

I asked my classmate to move so that I could see the teacher better.

Pro Tip: So vs. So That

“So” and “so that” are often misused because they are similar in meaning and usage, making it easy to misunderstand the type of relationship they are describing in a sentence. In this sentence, “The weather turned bad, so the kids came inside,” there is a cause and effect relationship between the two clauses. However, the second clause, “the kids came inside,” is an independent clause rather than a subordinate one, which means that “so” is being used as a coordinating conjunction and should be preceded by a comma.

For using “so” or “so that” as subordinating conjunctions, the second clause must do two things. First, it must be a dependent clause, and second, it must answer the question of “why” for the first independent clause in the sentence. Looking at a previous example, why did “I ask my classmate to move” is answered in the second half of the sentence, “so that I could see the teacher better.”


“Where” and “wherever” are examples of subordinating conjunctions that show or tell you where the action of a sentence takes place.

Let’s meet at the same place where we had dinner last time.


“Although,” “though,” and “even if” are subordinating conjunctions used to introduce a clause that contradicts the main clause.

Even though we were exhausted after our trip, we came home and cleaned the house.

Although John had a difficult day at work, he still came home smiling.


English grammar can be difficult to understand and use properly, and subordinating conjunctions are no exception. However, with time and practice, you too can feel confident when using them in your writing or speech.

Be sure to check out our Grammar Tips articles to learn about other tricky grammar rules in English.

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