A Higher View of Content: The Subordinating Conjunction

Last week, I wrote about the coordinating conjunction and how it functions in a sentence, so it’s only natural that I now discuss its older brother, the hipster: the subordinating conjunction. Instead of unleashing a swift grammar lecture on you (which I’ve been known to do at times), I’ll explain my point by comparing subordinating conjunctions to hipsters.

They’re Unpredictable

Unlike the coordinating conjunctions, which can be easily remembered using the acronym FANBOYS, subordinating conjunctions are a little more irregular. Just as it’s nearly impossible to predict or understand the next hipster trend, it’s a little difficult to name the subordinating conjunctions. You have to either memorize them or learn a little bit about how they function in a sentence. Here’s a short list (but click here for a complete list):


After                            Since                            Until

Although                    So that                         What

As                                  Supposing                   When

Because                      Even though               Whenever

Before                         That                               Where

If                                    Though                        Whereas

In order                       Till                                Wherever

No matter                   Unless                         Which

While                            Who                             Why


They’re Unlikely Matchmakers

While coordinating conjunctions connect two similar elements, like apples and oranges, subordinating conjunctions connect two dissimilar elements: dependent clauses with independent clauses. Just as hipsters pair things that don’t match in a conventional way, like something from a grandparent’s closet with a new pair of skinny jeans, subordinating conjunctions match opposites.

Check out the subordinating conjunctions (in bold), which begin the dependent clauses (underlined) in the following sentences. Notice each sentence connects a dependent clause to an independent clause (not underlined).

We looked in his messenger bag, where the hipster was likely to stash a vinyl record and a Kurt Vonnegut book.

Because she got a bad haircut, she shaved her head to avoid the embarrassment.

Hipsters appear to spend minimal time getting ready, although many of them spend a great deal of time trying to project an effortless appearance.

They Add Style and Finesse

I appreciate subordinating conjunctions because they add flair to writing. And whether you’re into the subculture or not, hipsters definitely pitch a “notice me” kind of vibe. With their old-school sneakers and edgy haircuts, they aren’t boring and you can’t ignore them. By mixing up your sentence structure, your writing is more likely to be noticed, in a good way.

If there’s one thing I could live without, it’s a boring blog that uses the same, boring sentence structure over and over and over again. It’s painful. Using subordinating conjunctions to connect dependent clauses to independent clauses will add a little spice and flavor to your writing style.

Take the following two blurbs for example:

“She walked to the grocery store and looked around for a moment before heading towards the organic aisle. I labeled her a ‘hipster’ because her outfit consisted of a vintage dress, unlaced Doc Martens, and colorful tights. Her bold cat eye glasses framed a face free of makeup, besides, of course, bright red lipstick.”

When she walked to the grocery store, she looked around for a moment before heading towards the organic aisle. Because of her outfit, which consisted of a vintage dress, unlaced Doc Martens, and colorful tights, I labeled her a ‘hipster.’ Her bold cat eye glasses framed a face that was nearly free of makeup, although, of course, she wore bright red lipstick.”

While I’m not saying one passage is better than the other, I am saying that subordinating conjunctions can add a little zest to your writing by increasing the variety of sentence structures.

And here’s another helpful grammar tip: when you begin a sentence with a subordinating conjunction you’ll always insert a comma after the dependent clause; however, a comma isn’t always needed when the dependent clause follows an independent clause.

Here’s what I mean:

Because she shops at vintage clothing stores and has a liberal arts degree, people often mistake her for a hipster.

People often mistake her for a hipster because she shops at vintage clothing stores and has a liberal arts degree.

You see? When you begin a sentence with a dependent clause, you need a comma. But if you tack the dependent clause to the end of an independent clause, you usually don’t.

Hopefully you learned at least two things after reading this blog: subordinating conjunctions can add variety to your writing, and Chuck Taylors will always be cool, even if you aren’t a hipster.


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Kimberlee Kile Henry

Lead Editor Kimberlee Kile Henry is an editor by day, writer by night, and a weekend adventure seeker. When she's not slashing dead and empty words from content, you can probably find her chasing one of her three little boys to the top of a mountain or building her Pennsylvania homestead.

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