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A complex sentence consists of one or more clauses which could be a combination of two or more main clauses, or a combination of main and subordinate clauses.

A main clause is a clause that makes sense on its own and can also exist in a sentence on its own.

A Subordinate clause is a clause that does not make sense on its own and cannot be a sentence on its own. The subordinate clause explains or completes the meaning in the main class.

Two main clauses are joined by and, but or or.

Peter came to the party and the celebration started.

When a sentence consists of a main clause and a subordinate clause they are joined by a subordinating conjunction, also known as a subordinator such as when, because, although, if, etc.


Example: The subordinate clause has been highlighted

  1. Internet shopping is very popular today because it is convenient.
  2. Because he was burnt by the kettle, he went to the clinic.
  3. Peter, who was playing in the jumping castle, was excited.

Subordinate clauses can appear in different parts of the sentence

Sam danced gracefully, even with a back injury.
Even with a back injury, Sam danced gracefully.
Sam, even with a back injury, danced gracefully.

Punctuation: When subordinate clauses begin sentences, they are often separated by commas.

  1. If you’re ever in France, let’s visit Paris.
  2. Although she prepared her speech many times, Susan failed in the examination.
  3. While waiting for the school bus, Tim at his breakfast.

Subordinators are linking words that are used to join clauses together. They are used at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence.

Reference list of subordinators:

TASK 1) Highlight the subordinate clause(s) in these sentences.

Your Answer Answer
  1. Because the results were released at a later date, students and parents complained to the school.
  1. Because the results were released at a later date, students and parents complained to the school.
Your Answer Answer
  1. You should not turn on your phone unless given the permission to do so.
  1. You should not turn on your phone unless given the permission to do so.
Your Answer Answer
  1. I will go out as soon as the rain stops.
  1. I will go out as soon as the rain stops.
Your Answer Answer
  1. Before he became a teacher, Peter was a librarian.
  1. Before he became a teacher, Peter was a librarian.
Your Answer Answer
  1. While travelling on the road, Mary ran over a kangaroo.
  1. While travelling on the road, Mary ran over a kangaroo.
Your Answer Answer
  1. Barbara failed her course, after getting caught plagiarising.
  1. Barbara failed her course, after getting caught plagiarising.
Your Answer Answer
  1. Prior to the international outbreak of SARS, China kept the disease under wraps in order to maintain economic confidence.
  1. Prior to the international outbreak of SARS, China kept the disease under wraps in order to maintain economic confidence.
Your Answer Answer
  1. The university offers scholarships to students who achieve the highest marks.
  1. The university offers scholarships to students who achieve the highest marks.
Your Answer Answer
  1. Since the washing machine was broken, I took my laundry to the dry cleaners.
  1. Since the washing machine was broken, I took my laundry to the dry cleaners.
Your Answer Answer
  1. I enrolled in the drawing class so that I could spend more time with Tim.
  1. I enrolled in the drawing class so that I could spend more time with Tim.
Your Answer Answer
  1. Unless you have a valid visa, you are not allowed to enter North Korea.
  1. Unless you have a valid visa, you are not allowed to enter North Korea.
Your Answer Answer
  1. As the pain was no longer bearable, Mary decided to take the morphine injection to ease the pain.
  1. As the pain was no longer bearable, Mary decided to take the morphine injection to ease the pain.

TASK 2) Identify the subordinate clause and rewrite the sentences with the subordinate clause in different positions.

  1. 1. Rachel stopped at a petrol station before embarking on her road trip to stock up supplies.
    • Before embarking on her road trip, Rachel stopped at a petrol station to stock up supplies.
    • Rachel stopped at a petrol station to stock up supplies before embarking on her road trip.
  2. 2. John must study hard because he needs to achieve high grades for entry into medical studies.
    Because he needs to achieve grades for entry into medical studies, John must study hard.
  3. 3. Cobras do not attack humans unless they are provoked.
    Unless they are provoked, Cobras so not attack humans.
  4. 4. Since the weather is cooler now, they go out for picnics.
    They go out for picnics since the weather is cooler now.
  5. 5. Goggles should be worn every time you enter the pool to prevent any eye infections.
    To prevent eye infections, googles should be worn every time you enter the pool.

TASK 3) Fill in the missing subordinator to connect the clauses. (There may be more than one answer)

  1. AlthoughEven though she hates children, Brenda still helped her sister babysit.
  2. Daddy gifted Ted with a bicycle soso that he can go to school by himself.
  3. We prepared a birthday cake made of candies asbecausesince Daniel has a sweet tooth.
  4. He ate an ice-cream while waiting for Jenny.
  5. I will pay you the money provided you finish the renovations on time.
  6. They won’t move houses unless they win the lottery.
  7. After attaining his degree, Jim found a job at a law firm.
  8. Ever since he was a child, Bob had wanted to play the piano.

TASK 4) Combine the sentences in each case to make one sentence with two clauses. Use the linking word given and make any necessary changes.

  1. Tim went to Australia. He wanted to become a life-saver. (because)
    Tim went to Australia because he wanted to become a life-saver.
  2. The renovations were completed on time. It wasn’t completed according to the proposal. (but)
    The renovations were completed on time but it wasn’t completed according to the proposal.
  3. Alex is afraid of spiders. He touched one at the school fair. (Although)
    Although Alex is afraid of spiders, he touched one at the school fair.
  4. Brian will help all the students apply for the international courses. They must all give him their application form. (provided)
    Brain will help all the students apply for the international courses provided they all give him their application form.
  5. Dad put Lucy on his shoulders. Lucy wanted to see the fireworks. (so that)
    Dad put Lucy on his shoulders so that she could see the fireworks.
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