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Subordinate Clause Practice

Subordinate clauses consist a subject and a verb and express an idea, but because of the addition of one of the words in the table below, that idea is incomplete.  By itself, a subordinate clause is a fragment.  It has to attach itself to an independent clause in order to have a role in a sentence.

Here's a handy table featuring all of what I call the Subordinate Clause Introductory Words (SCIW's).  Why do I call them that?  I don't want to memorize terms like subordinating conjunctions, relative pronouns, indefinite relative pronouns, etc.  Yuck!  I just call them all by the umbrella term Subordinate Clause Introductory Words since this is what they all do: introduce (begin) subordinate clauses.  I did, however, include the correct terms in the table below.

Adverb Clauses begin with
the subordinating conjunctions after, although, as, as if, as far as, as long as, as soon as, as though, because, before, if, in order that, provided that, since, so that, than, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, wherever, whether, and while.They act like adverbs by answering the questions how, when, where, why to what extent/degree, or under what conditions.
Noun Clauses begin with
 indefinite relative pronouns who, whom, whose, which, or  that
the indefinite relative adjectives whoever, whomever, whichever, whose, what, where, when, why, if, whether, and how
These can be any type of noun. Just remember that as a noun they can be replaced by a pronoun like it for things and who or whom for people.  Take a look at my noun slots discussion for all the places you can look for noun clauses.
Adjective Clauses begin with
the relative pronouns who, whom, whose, which, and, that, the relative adjective whose, and the relative adverbs where and whenThese always (?) come after a noun that they modify, so that makes them easier to spot. They answer which one and what kind about that noun.

* Please note that some words appear on more than one list.  For example, that appears on all three if you count the two-word SCIW's like so that in the adverb list.

You can also have an understood that, meaning it's not there, but we understand that it's been left out like the understood you in command and requests.

Okay, Mr. Roden, you've given me a lovely list of words, but how do I spot and identify clauses in sentences.  Give me a process!

I can do that!   Brace yourself for words written in large letters!  (You may hear trumpets blowing as you read them. Ignore them.)

The Process for

Spotting and Categorizing  Subordinate Clauses

1. Spot your verbs! 
Since clauses consist of a subject and verb combination, the first best step is the spot your verbs, so read the sentence and put a dot under everything that looks like a verb.

2. Look for subjects.
Not everything that looks like a verb is a verb thanks to the verbal family:  infinitives, gerunds, and participles.  Consequently, the suspected verbs we dotted in step one have to have a subject to be a verb, so check each potential verb and if it has a subject, double underline it as a verb and put a single line under its subject(s).

3.  Look for SCIW's in front of your subject and verb combos.
Okay, you've found all the subject-verb combos in the sentence.  One or more of them will be independent clauses and won't have one of the SCIW's in the table above.  An independent clause, like the name suggests, can stand on its own.  It's the addition of a SCIW that creates a subordinate clause, so look for them in front of your subject-verb combos. Look for words from the table above in front of your subject-verb combos.

Sometimes the SCIW will serve two roles: it will be a part of speech in the clause AND an SCIW at the same time.  This doesn't happen in adverb clauses.  For example:
I know who ate my steak
Here, who is the subject for ate and the SCIW.

I know whom he called.
Here, whom is the direct object for called, even though it comes before the subject-verb combo,
 and a SCIW.

4. Find where the subordinate clauses start and stop and underline them.
It's typically pretty easy to see where a clause starts and stops.  You'll need to determine that so you can do the next step.

5. Determine what kind of subordinate clauses you have.
This is pretty easy in the case of adverb clauses because they answer an adverb question that their SCIW usually gives away or at which they strongly hint. (I avoided ending a sentence in a preposition there!)  For example,  the SCIW's after, before, until, and others are very much time-related, so the clauses they began can answer the adverb question when? very easily. Plus, they have an exclusive (not shared with the other types) SCIW list.

Noun clauses, like all nouns, can be replaced by pronouns.  For non-people noun clauses, the pronoun it can replace them. 

I never knew that she was a cat juggler.

I can replace the italicized clause with it without changing the meaning and still having a complete idea: 
I never knew it.   The word it answers the question what? found in the formula for finding direct objects:  Subject + Action Verb + What? (or Whom? for people).  Has to be a clause acting as a direct object.

For people-clauses, a people-related pronoun like who or whom can do the trick.  Give me examples you say? Okay, your wish is granted, but I will give lengthy example of the process in action later.  This will just be a noun clause example.

That she is a princess at heart is obvious.    This is a noun clause.  How do I know?  Let me count the ways.

1.  When I replace the whole clause with it, the sentence becomes "It is obvious."  Does that make sense? Yes.  Noun clause.
2.  The clause fills the subject slot.  If it's acting as the subject, it has to be a noun.  Noun clause.
3.  I said so.  Nanner, nanner.

That example may seem like a people-related clause, but those are limited to who, whom, whoever, and whomever noun clauses, so it worked as a replacement.

Adjective clauses always come after a noun (in every example I can find), and they answer an adjective question about that noun: what kind or which one.

The man who pauses to think is the man who will make the right decision.  This is a twofer (two clauses in the same sentence for the price of one). In both cases, the adjective clause is modifying man and answering the adjective question which one? about man.  Which man are we discussing?

Okay, Mr. Roden, you gave me a process, but where is this "practice" you mentioned? 

Righty-o.   Trumpeteers, pucker your lips.



Finding Subordinate Clauses Practice

Using Our Process


Here's our first sentence to consider:

I told her that I wanted a raise, and she laughed at me.

Step one is to spot everything that looks like a verb.  Normally, I would just put a dot under these words, but since Kompozer doesn't give me that option, I will highlight them.

I revealed that I wanted a raise, and she laughed at me.

Step two is searching for subjects for our verbs.  I will underline them as I find them.
Revealed is working with I, wanted with its I, and she is doing the laughing.

I revealed that I wanted a raise, and she laughed at me.

Step three says to look for SCIW's in front of the subject and verb combo's you found.
The first has nothing it front of it, so that's an easy one.  "I wanted" has that in front of it, and that is a word you always have to consider.


Here is some more important information about the word that. 
It can perform several different roles:
1.  It can be simple pronoun taking the place of a noun.  (That is right.)
2.  It can be a demonstrative adjective like this and those.  (That book is mine.)  
3.  It can be a  normal SCIW that precedes a subject and verb combination.
4.  It can be both a SCIW and be the subject for a subordinate clause AT THE SAME TIME.
5. 
Here's the tricky one:  it can be a normal SCIW but not appear in the sentence! 


Here, that is doing a #3, making the complete idea "I wanted a raise" into an incomplete idea and a subordinate clause.  "She laughed" has only the conjunction and in front of it.

Regarding number five, we could leave the that out and have
I revealed I wanted a raise, and she laughed at me.

Is this a sentence?  Is the clause still a subordinate clause?  Yes.

Step four is find where the subordinate clauses start and stop.  We have two independent clauses separated by the subordinate clause highlighted in green.  If our goal was to identify the structure of the sentence, it would be compound-complex.  You can't determine a sentence's structure without the ability to find and count clauses.  That, for sentence variety, and determining where to place punctuation are three reasons to learn about subordinate clauses.  Plus, punctuating them correctly is on the ACT, so that gives it real importance now and later in college when you're expected to know how to do it.

I revealed  that I wanted a raise, and she laughed at me.

Step five says to determine what kind of clauses we have.

That as a solo SCIW is only on the noun and adjective clause lists, so we have ruled out the adverb clause as a possibility already.  That isn't modfiying a noun that precedes it, and adjective clauses modify a noun that they follow.

As noted above in the pre-process information, noun clauses--since they're nouns--can be replaced by pronouns.  Typically, we use the pronoun it when we're not dealing with people. "I  know what you did last summer " can become "I know it" and still make perfect sense.  The pronouns who and  whom can replace noun clauses that target people. 

If we say, "I revealed it," does this make sense?  Sure.  In this form, it's obvious that it is being a direct object for revealed.  Therefore, the subordinate clause is a noun clause acting as a direct object.  Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.




Our next sentence: 


What she does in her spare time is her business.

Step one is to spot everything that looks like a verb. 

What she does in her spare time is her business.

Step two is searching for subjects for our verbs.  I will underline them as I find them.  The subject for does is obviously she, so...

What she does in her spare time is her business.

Now the subject for is is a tad harder to find.  I know it's a verb because is is ALWAYS a verb with one obvious exception: when I refer to it as a word it becomes a noun as all words do since they are things.  So, is has to have a subject, but we will come back to that.

Step three says to look for SCIW's in front of the subject and verb combo's you found.  In front of she does we have what.  In front of is...well, time is there, but "time is her business" doesn't make a lot of sense here, so again we're are putting that issue off for a later step.

Step four is find where the subordinate clauses start and stop.  We know to stop one clause when we run into words that are related to another clause's idea, so I can green highlight until I run into is, which is not part of the subordinate clause's idea.

What she does in her spare time is her business.

Step five says to determine what kind of clauses we have.  The SCIW what is on the list for noun clauses. That tends to point toward this being a noun clause.  Can we  replace the clause with it and still make sense?

It is her business.

Yes, we can.  Now, we don't have to even look at the clause to determine what kind of noun the noun clause is acting as.  We can just look at the sentence above with it.  In that sentence, it is obviously the subject for is.  That explains why finding the subject for is was so tough earlier: seven words were acting as one part of speech, the subject for is.

Noun clauses even though they are subordinate often play an important part in the independent clauses because they are the independent clauses' subject or direct object or predicate noun. 

Important for step two: If you have a hard time founding a subject for a word you know is a verb, not a verbal, you're probably dealing with a noun clause acting as the subject.

If you remove a noun clause from a sentence, you will most likely have a sentence that doesn't make a lot of sense.

Is her business.  We're missing something! 

You can remove adverb and adjective clauses and still make sense although you will have lost important information.


Our next sentence:

The man working with the trained cat has many bite marks that look like tattoos.

Step one:  Spot everything that looks like a verb.

The man working with the trained cat has many bite marks that look like tattoos.

Okay, we know that every verb ending in -ing has to have a helping verb, and we can see that working doesn't have a helper.  Consequently, we know working is not a verb, but it's one of three verbals: infinitive, participle, or gerund.  Since it looks like a verb and modifies man like an adjective does, it's a participle.  We can move on.  The word trained is telling what kind of cat, so it also looks like a verb but acts as an adjective--another participle.  Has is always a verb.  Look isn't a particle, gerund, or infinitive. So, we're left with...

The man working with the trained cat has many bite marks that look like tattoos.

Step two is searching for subjects for our verbs.  Has  is working with man and look is working with what appears to be a simple pronoun at this point, that. Don't assume that the nearest noun is the verb's subject.  Cat is right there with has, but it's not its subject since the cat has no bite marks and the man does.

The man working with the trained cat has many bite marks that look like tattoos.

Step three says to look for SCIW's in front of the subject and verb combo's you found.  Man just has the in front of it while "that looks" doesn't have a SCIW in front of it, BUT remember that the SCIW that appears in one form or another on all three SCIW lists.

Considering our five options for that listed in the above table, we know that is being a subject for look and showing the beginning of a subordinate clause at the same time.  What a tricky little word that is!

Step four is find where the subordinate clauses start and stop.  Thanks to identifying the role that plays in the sentence, we know where the subordinate clause is.

The man working with the trained cat has many bite marks that look like tattoos.

Step five says to determine what kind of clauses we have. We know it's not an adverb clause for two reasons:  it doesn't answer an adverb question, and it doesn't begin with an adverb SCIW.

Thusly, it has to be either a noun or adjective clause.  Noun clauses can be replaced by a pronoun, so let's try that.

The man working with the trained cat has many bite marks it.

Doesn't quite work, does it?  Does it modify a noun?  Yes, "that look like tattoos" is telling what kind or which one about marks.  What kind of marks were they?  Marks that looked like tattooes. Consequently, we know it's an adjective clause.


Our next sentence:

Whenever we go to our well decorated school we learn something that will be useful later on.

Step one:  Spot everything that looks like a verb.

Whenever we go to our well decorated school we learn something that will be useful later on.

Step two is searching for subjects for our verbs.

We are doing the going, so there's one subject.  Decorated doesn't have a subject because the sentence doesn't say who did the decorating.  Decorated is modifying school by telling what kind of school it is.  If it looks like a verb but acts like an adjective, it's a participle.  Will be has a pronoun that it's working with, the ever tricky that.

Whenever we go to our well decorated school we learn something that will be useful later on.

Step three says to look for SCIW's in front of the subject and verb combo's you found.

Whenever is on the list for adverb clause SCIW's.  By definition it tries to tell when, which is an adverb question.  It looks like we have spotted the beginning of an adverb clause.  We and that don't have anything before them, but we have to look at that very closely.  Which of the first four roles for that is it taking on?  Can we say "that will be useful later" and make sense?  Yes, so we know it's serving the dual role of SCIW and subject inside the clause.  It's multitasking.

Step four is find where the subordinate clauses start and stop.  It's always as simple as determining where one idea stops and the next one starts.

Whenever we go to our well decorated school we learn something that will be useful later on.

Step five says to determine what kind of clauses we have.

We already deduced the adverb clause starting with whenever. What about that last clause?  Is it acting as a noun clause, or does it modify a noun that comes before it?  Something is a pronoun being the direct object for learn in the independent clause.  It can be modified and "that will be useful later on" tells what kind of something we're learning, an adjective question.  Yes, it has to be an adjective clause.



Commas


Adverb clauses that precede an independent clause are followed by a comma.  I left it out in the sample sentence so I wouldn't give anything away.

Adjective clauses that are considered nonessential are set off by a comma before and after them.

Examples: Mr. Dippitydoofus, who always wears purple plaid, is a strange man. (Mr. Dippitydoofus narrowed the possibilities down to one, so the adjective clause cannot be essential.

The man who always wears purple plaid is a strange man. ("The man" only narrows it down to a few million or billion men, about half of the world's population, and the adjective clause narrows that number down even more.  Therefore, the adjective clause is essential, and no commas are used.

Noun clauses typically don't require any commas, but when a noun clause is acting as an appositive, the nonessential appositive rule applies. 

Example:  Her idea that we sell pancakes to raise money for prom is a good plan.  (The subject idea is renamed by by the noun clause "that we sell pancakes to raise money for prom."  This is essential because whoever she is, she has more than one idea.  The noun clause/appositive narrows it down to one, so it's essential and requires no commas.  You can tell the noun clause is an appositive because you can delete "her idea" and still have a subject for is

Her best idea that we sell pancakes to raise money for prom is a good plan. (This time the noun clause/appositive is nonessential because best has lowered the number of possibilities down to one.  "her best idea" isn't detailed, but it lowers the number of possibilities to one.  Those of you that say you have seventeen best friends might be confused by this concept, but that's because you don't know that best by definition refers to one, not more.  If you have seventeen friends of equal value, those are merely close friends that are better than some others.  Really.  Look it up.)



Okay, I have just about blah blah blahed until I blah blah blah anything more to blah blah blah.  Let me know if you have questions via my school email.  Feel free to send me a sentence that is giving you trouble, and we'll apply the process to it.  Thanks for reading this far!

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