Author Topic: Part 2 - Getting reacquainted with the subordinating conjunctions  (Read 5983 times)

Joe Carillo

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Timely Reacquaintance with Connectives and Discourse Markers

For 12 consecutive days from today, June 1 to June 12, 2020, the Forum is running a special retrospective of its comprehensive series in 2017 on the English connectives and discourse markers. These connectives—the coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs, prepositions, and discourse markers—are the basic tools of English for enabling readers or listeners to navigate the sense and logic of what’s written or being spoken about. Today we will be getting reacquainted with the subordinating conjunctions.

Part 2 - Getting reacquainted with the subordinating conjunctions

As taken up in our review yesterday, the basic coordinating conjunctions “and,” “but,” “yet,” “or,” “nor,” “so,” and “for” are used to combine two independent clauses of equal grammatical rank. The choice will depend on the logical relationship to be established for the ideas in the two independent clauses. The resulting construction is what’s known in English grammar as a compound sentence, as in “We wanted to fly to Hong Kong, but all the airlines were fully booked.”

When we need to combine a dependent clause with an independent clause, however, a coordinating conjunction can no longer establish a logical relationship between them. Take the clauses “he won’t quit” and “the general manager demanded his resignation,” in that order. Try as we may, none of the seven coordinating conjunctions can logically connect the two clauses.

First failed try: “He won’t quit and the general manager demanded his resignation.” Second failed try: “He won’t quit but the general manager demanded his resignation.” Third failed try: “He won’t quit yet the general manager demanded his resignation.” (Do this mentally with the other four coordinating conjunctions.)

But the word “until” can do it: “He won’t quit until the general manager himself demanded his resignation.” And so can the word “unless”: “He won’t quit unless the general manager himself demand his resignation.” The words “until” and “unless” are able to logically connect the two clauses by making one of them—“the general manager himself demand(ed) his resignation”—dependent on or subordinate to the other. They are examples of what are known as subordinating conjunctions.

The subordinating conjunctions fall into four groups based on the logical relationship they convey: (1) the time conjunctions “after,” “before,” “until,” “till,” and “while”; (2) the cause-and-effect conjunctions “as,” “as if,” “since,” “because,” “inasmuch as,” “lest,” “now that,” “once,” “that,” “so that,” “when,” and “whenever”; (3) the opposition and contrast conjunctions “though,” “although,” “as though,” “even if,” “even though,” “than,” “rather than,” “where,” and “whereas”; and (4) the conditional conjunctions “if,” “if only,” “as long as,” “in order that,” “unless,” and “wherever.”

These 32 subordinating conjunctions can functionally link a dependent idea to an independent or main idea, enabling a dependent clause to draw meaning from the main clause. This, for example, is what “once” does in this sentence: “The meek woman became notoriously domineering once she obtained her law degree.” Typically, the independent clause can also precede the dependent clause:  “Once she obtained her law degree, the meek woman became notoriously domineering.” Either way, such constructions form what’s known as a complex sentence—one where a subordinate clause draws meaning from an independent clause.

Grammatically, a subordinate clause formed by most of the subordinating conjunctions functions adverbially and modifies the verb in the independent clause, as in “The rogue senator continued to attack the government although he was already behind bars for a drug-related offense.” Here, the subordinate clause “although he was already behind bars for a drug-related offense” functions as an adverbial clause modifying the verb “continued” in the main clause.

A few of the subordinating conjunctions form dependent clauses that function as an adjective clause or direct object instead. This is the case with the subordinating conjunction “that,” as in this example: “The negotiators ultimately worked out a peace treaty that was accepted by the warring countries.” Here, the dependent clause “that was accepted by the warring countries” works as an adjective modifying “peace treaty.”

Then here’s a sentence where the subordinator “that” introduces a dependent clause functioning as a direct object: “The arrested illegal-drug courier protested that she got a bum rap from the police.” Here, the dependent clause “that she got a bum rap from the police” works as the direct object of the verb “protested” in the main clause.

(Next: Part 3 - Getting reacquainted with the conjunctive adverbs)       May 3, 202
« Last Edit: June 03, 2020, 01:36:06 AM by Joe Carillo »