The boys walked down the road
and their parents waved from the
A complex sentence contains one main clause that can
make sense on its own, and one or more minor
(subordinate) clauses that are linked to it.
When I arrived, the big dog was barking.
The subordinate clause is When I arrived. Although it is
a clause with a subject and a verb, it doesn't make
sense on its own, it needs a main clause.
More complex sentences
You can add more minor clauses to make a more
When I arrived, the big dog was barking because
it was lonely.
We can even split the main clause with a minor
clause and still have a complex sentence.
When I arrived, the big dog which was lonely,
Alice entered the room (main clause)
• who was shaking with fear subordinate
• although she was scared clauses
• feeling full of confidence
• Write the above sentence using subordinate
clauses in as many different ways as you can.
You can split up Alice and entered the room.
Punctuating a subordinate clause
When you attach a subordinate clause in front of a
main clause, use a comma, like this:
Even though the broccoli was covered in cheese,
Emily refused to eat it.
When you attach a subordinate clause at the end of
a main clause, you do not need to punctuate:
Jill did poorly in her English exam because her best
friend kept her up too late the night before.
Subordinate clauses can begin with a relative
pronoun (who, whose, which) and so are
called relative clauses. In this case, the
punctuation gets a bit trickier. It depends on
whether the information is essential for
understanding or not.
Nick gave a handful of chocolate to the dog who
was sniffing around the table. (The information
clarifies the animal so the clause is essential and
requires no punctuation.)
Nick gave a handful of chocolate to Poppy, who was
sniffing around the table. (We know which
animal he means so the clause is not essential
and therefore needs to be separated. It is used
for additional, descriptive information)
OK, so why do I need to know all this?
Writers uses subordination to combine ideas
and make them more effective:
Rhonda gasped. A six-foot snake slithered
across the garden.
Rhonda gasped when a six-foot snake slithered
across the garden.
If two ideas have unequal importance, save the
most important one for the end so that your
reader remembers it best. E.g.
After eating his breakfast and cleaning his teeth,
Guy Fawkes set off to blow up the Houses of
Start with verb + ing
Liam realised he had finally been picked for the
team when he looked down the list for his name.
Looking down the list for his name, Liam realised he
had finally been picked for the team.
By using verb + ing our writer makes the
reader feel more emotionally involved with
Liam’s feelings. The reader can easily imagine
Liam’s anticipation as he looks down the list.
The order of words in the sentence is effective
because the writer withholds the good news
until the end!
Using this in your essays
The poet uses colloquial language in his poem
“The Man He Killed”. This suggests that the
narrator is a working class man.
By using colloquial language in his poem “The
Man He Killed”, the poet suggests to the
reader that the narrator is a working class
Shakespeare makes blunt, critical statements about his
mistress’s looks in “Sonnet 130”. She doesn’t match
up to popular ideals of beauty in Elizabethan times.
This goes against the reader’s expectations.
By highlighting his mistress’s faults in “Sonnet 130”,
Shakespeare goes against the reader’s expectations.
Saying that she doesn’t match up to popular ideals of
beauty in Elizabethan time, is his way of showing that
she is beautiful in a more genuine way.
Don’t forget the comma
• Don’t forget, a clause beginning with an ing
verb is a subordinate clause as it doesn’t make
sense on its own, so it must have a comma
before the rest of the sentence.
• Write your own sentence starting with ing.
Start with ed
Kylie decided to relax in the jacuzzi because she
was tired from the snowboarding.
Tired from all the snowboarding, Kylie decided to
relax in the jacuzzi.
Perhaps this writer thinks the most important
information should come first – the fact that
it’s snowboarding that has made Kylie tired.
The writer is putting the order of events in the
sentence in the same order that they
happened in real –time snowboarding first
followed by relaxing.
Write your own sentence using an ‘ed’ word e.g.
Dressed or shouted at. Don’t forget the comma.