Comma Clue #4: Commas With Subordinate Clause Openers Part III of III

Do you remember what a subordinate clause is from yesterday? A subordinate clause is a sentence (independent clause-can stand alone) that has a subordinator added to the beginning of it (which makes it a dependent clause-is dependent upon something else in order to be used {has to have a real sentence put with it in order to be used}).

Think of subordinate clauses by either of their two names:

1. Subordinate clause–subordinate to the rest of the sentence
2. Dependent clause–dependent on something else to go with it (a real sentence/independent clause) in order to be used

Click here if you need to brush up on subordinators via our Subordinator-Check Sentence or subordinate rhyme.

Subordinate Clause Opener: Now for the opener part.

If you have been reading Language Lady for long, you have learned that a sentence opener has the following characteristics:

1.      It gives a sentence more information.

2.      It comes at the beginning of a sentence, which gives a paragraph a
different rhythm than if it included all subject-verb patterned sentences.

3.      It is often set off with a comma-again, adding to the rhythm of your
sentences.

4.      It si usually non-essential, meaning that the senence is still a
sentence without the addition of an opener.

5.      It shows advanced writing skills because a writer who has a handle
on the many varieties of sentence openers has a large toolbox of sentence structure at his disposal.

So…if a subordinate clause is a group of words that contains a subordinator+subject+verb, then a subordinate clause opener is a subordinator+subject+subordinate clause that is used as a sentence opener.

Simple enough, huh?

The tricky parts of subordinate clause openers are

(1)   Be sure that you never use a subordinate clause opener by itself,
thinking it is a sentence. (It will sound like something is missing-because it is-the real sentence!)

(2)   Be sure that you put a comma following a subordinate clause opener.

When you start a sentence with a subordinate clause, 
Put the comma in when you hear the pause!

Here are some complex sentences created with subordinate clause openers attached to “real” sentence. In grammar lingo, each one is a complex sentence because it has a dependent clause (subordinate clause) at the beginning attached to an independent clause (real sentence).

If you learn subordinators well, you may write sentences with subordinate clauses.

If you put a dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence, put a comma in before writing the real sentence part.

As you learn more and more about sentence structure, your writing will improve.

Since people are impressed by good grammar and strong writing, you will become an impressive person as you learn grammar usage.

When you start a sentence with a subordinate clause, put the comma in where you hear the pause.

Although many people do not remember much about dependent and independent clauses, this does not make these clauses unimportant.

Because I want to write well, I am working on my usage skills.

Though some consider analyzing sentences as outdated, I know that it helps me write better.

If you lasted to the end of this lesson, you will be able to write well with subordinate clause openers!

COMMA CLUE #4: Comma Following a Subordinate Clause Opener Part II of III

Did you memorize subordinators, so you can write with subordinate clause openers properly? If not, you can find the post on there here.

Once you memorize subordinators, you are ready to write with subordinate clauses. Specific to this lesson, you will be ready to write subordinate clause openers (subordinate clauses that are added to the beginnings of sentences).

As far as a subordinate clause is concerned, it contains a subordinator and a subject and a verb.

Subordinator + Subject + Verb

When she drove,

As he said,

After she left,

When they arrived,

Because he smiled,

Did you notice anything about those subordinate clauses? If you noticed that each one would be a sentence if the subordinator were removed, you are correct!

A subordinate clause is a sentence (subject + verb) that has a subordinator at the beginning of it!

Sentence: She drove.
Subordinate clause:  When she drove,

Sentence: He said.
Subordinate clause: As he said,

Sentence: She left.
Subordinate clause: After she left,

Sentence: They arrived.
Subordinate clause: When they arrived,

Sentence: He smiled.
Subordinate clause: Because he smiled,

So….a subordinate clause is a sentence (independent clause-can stand
alone) that has a subordinator added to the beginning of it (which makes it a dependent clause-is dependent upon something else in order to be used {has to have a real sentence put with it in order to be used}).

Think of subordinate clauses by either of their two names:

1. Subordinate clause–subordinate to the rest of the sentence
2. Dependent clause–dependent on something else to go with it (a real sentence/independent clause) in order to be used

So….that is enough of subordinate clauses for today. In the next and final installment of this Comma Clue #4, we will attack the subordinate clause used as a sentence opener–the subordinate clause opener.

COMMA CLUE #4: Comma Following a Subordinate Clause Opener Part I of III



Today’s Comma Clue can be confusing–but it is one of the most needful for comprehension as well as for sentence fluidity when reading aloud. 



When you start a sentence with a subordinate clause,
Put the comma in when you hear the pause!



That is a cute rhyme (don’t you think?)….but unless you know what a subordinate clause is (and prior to that, what a subordinator is), it will not do you much good to recite it. So this post will go back to what subordinators are first. 

Maybe you were taught that subordinators (words that make the part of the sentence that they are in be “subordinate” to the rest of the sentence) are called other things, like conjunctives or subordinate conjunctions. Some grammar handbooks do not even classify subordinators at all but call them whatever other class they fall under (i.e. the preposition before might always be called a preposition, even though it is a subordinator when it has a subject and verb following it).

Regardless of what you were taught about subordinators, they are extremely important to good writing. Why? 

1. A subordinator is a word that falls at the beginning of a subordinate clause.
2. A subordinate clause is a group of words that begins with a subordinator and has a subject and verb following it.
3. A subordinate clause is subordinate to the rest of the sentence–that is, it is “less than” the real sentence.
4. A subordinate clause may not stand alone as it is not a real sentence.
5. A subordinate clause sounds as though something is missing when it is read–because something is (the real sentence!).
6. A subordinate clause may be joined with a complete sentence to create a complex sentence, but the subordinate clause may never stand alone.

So….what are subordinators?

Let’s start with the first six that we teach our youngest language arts students in our books:

Since, when, though
Because, if, although.

Yeah, it’s a rhyme! Cute, huh? (I love teaching!)

Anyway, for you older folks, we have a Subordinator-Check Sentence that most subordinators fit into. In a nutshell, if a word fits in the check sentence and the word is not an adverb, it likely a subordinator:

________________________ the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.


Since the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.


When the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.


Though the submarine went down, we could STILL  see it.


Because the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.


If the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.


Although the submarine went down, we could STILL see it.

Okay, that is the first six. Here is a lengthy, but not exhaustive list of subordinators:

-after (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-although
-as (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-as if
-as long as
-as soon as
-as though
-because
-because of (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-before (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-even
-even if
-even though
-if
-inasmuch as
-in order that
-lest
-now (more commonly used as an adverb)
-now since
-now that
-now when
-once
-provided
-rather than
-since
-than (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-that
-though
-til (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-unless
-until (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-when
-whenever
-where
-where ever
-where as
-whether
-which
-which ever
-while
-who
-whoever
-why


In as much as the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.

Until the submarine went down, we could STILL see it.

While the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.



 We will stop here and give you time to memorize these before we go on in a day or two working on punctuating sentences that begin with subordinate clauses. Just looking at the Subordinator-Check Sentence, though, you can probably deduce that the first rhyme in this post is accurate: a subordinate clause opener is followed by a comma. More later!


Picture from http://staff.jccc.net/mfitzpat/style/bd04892_.gif




Subject-Verb Agreement With Intervening Material



Intervening Material–Material that is surrounded

 by commas (or followed by a comma if used as an 

opener) and can be “plucked out” of a sentence 

without harming the “realness” of the sentence. 



How can you determine subject-verb agreement when “intervening material” is present. First of all, you have to determine if the info is really “intervening material” or is absolutely needed for the sentence. I tell my students that if it is surrounded by commas (or should be!), it usually means that it is “dropped into the sentence” and can be “plucked out” without harming the “realness” of the sentence. 

Thus, place mental parenthesis around this intervening material (especially prepositional phrases) and match your verb with the remaining subject (ignoring the intervening material).

1. She, along with others, was coming for dinner.
1. SHE, (along with others), WAS coming for dinner.

2. They, with their dog, are going to be here at ten.
2. THEY, (with their dog), ARE going to be here at ten.

3. One person, out of all ten, seems to care.
3. ONE PERSON, (out of all ten), SEEMS to care.

This is hard to do–and at times the sentence will sound incorrect. However, it is the proper way to reconcile subject-verb agreement with intervening material.

Have a “good grammar” day! 🙂

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