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& subordination lesson
Coordination & Subordination
- Learn appropriate
and effective use of coordinating and subordinating conjunctions
to combine sentences, phrases, and words.
- Learn how to revise paragraphs for coherence, rhythm,
and movement by combining sentences using coordination and
Coordination and coordinating conjunctions...
Coordinating conjunctions allow us to connect independent
clauses of the same level of importance in a single sentence
and avoid paragraphs composed of many short, repetitive simple
sentences. Seven different coordinating conjunctions allow
us to create distinct relationships between clauses:
and (the most common coordinating conjunction),
is used to combine two similar ideas together:
The mechanic fixed the broken
tail-light, and he replaced the brakes, too.
Note that the above sentence could also be written as a
single clause by leaving out the pronoun "he" and
using the coordinating conjunction "and" to connect,
or coordinate, the two verbs in the sentence as follows "The
mechanic fixed the broken tail-light and replaced the brakes,
too." A coordinating conjunction can connect words,
phrases, and clauses.
but is used to join two contrasting ideas
I thought my tail-light was
broken, but it was simply disconnected from the plug.
yet is similar to "but," in that
it is used to join two contrasting ideas; however, "yet"
is used instead of "but" to really emphasize a
She finally booked a trip to Paris, France,
yet she only plans to stay four days.
or joins two alternative ideas together:
We can go out to dinner with my parents,
or we can go to the movies with Mike and Sumi.
nor joins two negative alternatives together:
My boyfriend does not want to go out to
dinner with my parents, nor does he want to go the movies
with Mike and Sumi.
so is used to join clauses in a cause and
effect relationship, and is similar in meaning to the subordinating
conjunction "hence." Both words indicate an
effect or result of something. However, "hence" has
a more formal tone and subordinates one idea to the other,
while "so" is more casual in tone and maintains
equal importance of the clauses.
At the ticket counter, Manny discovered
he had forgotten our concert tickets, so we had to miss
half the show while we went home to get them.
for is also used to join clauses in a cause
and effect relationship and indicates a reason
why something happens. Thus, "for" is
similar in meaning to "because,"
"as," or "since." However, "because,"
usually suggests that the reason is the most important part
of the idea: "I got rid of my television because
it was destroying my brain cells." "As" and "since"
are usually used to show that the reason why something happened
is not as important as the main clause, or that the reason
is well-known already: "As you have a television
and I don't, how about I come to your house to watch the
NBA playoffs?" "For" is usually used
to indicate that the reason is an afterthought, an idea that
emerges once the first idea is stated.
I hated listening to her talk, for she
spoke in a high nasal voice.
She refuses to admit she hates her boss,
for she dislikes conflict with anyone.
Coordination creates rhythm and balance, and improves coherence
in a writer's sentences. Compare the following paragraphs
to see how coordination improves the writing:
The realities of the land and its
inhabitants obviously color the fiction of any area, but there
is also a literary style that thrives on exaggeration.
The exaggerations of the Texan comprise a distinct body
of folk material, but nowhere has exaggeration
been more artfully cultivated than in contemporary fiction.
(Max Apple, from his Introduction to Southwest Fiction,
Without coordination: The realities
of the land obviously color the fiction of any area. The
realities of the people color the fiction as well. There
is also a literary style that thrives on exaggeration.
The exaggerations of the Texan comprise a distinct body
of folk material. Nowhere has exaggeration been more artfully
cultivated than in contemporary fiction.
Coordination in a series...
Coordinating conjunctions are also used to connect items
in a series. These items can be phrases or single words
(nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs). In any series
the items must be parallel, or coordinate (like) items. For
Mark brought steak, lettuce, tomatoes,
and charcoal to our bar-b-que.
To surprise her mom, Nellie washed the
dishes, took out the trash, and vacuumed the living room.
Michelle liked to eat well but hated to
Coordination shows that each item in a series is of equal
importance and similar structure. Coordination also
makes the writing easy to follow; having read the first one
or two items in a series, a reader assumes the writer will
follow the established pattern until the conclusion of the
sentence. Notice how coordination makes the sentences below
easy to follow:
Whether the chase involves a car, a horse,
a wife, or a fortune, the quest itself often sbustitutes
in Southwestern literature for the close observation of
manners that is characteristic of a more settled society.
And in the following example, notice how coordination is
used effectively throughout the paragraph to develop the
main idea that Southwestern fiction has its own peculiar "rhythms
and cadences" influenced by Spanish culture:
The story is told in repetitious rhythms
and cadences that are peculiar to the area. There is a
touch of the Southern in this rhythm but the
Southwest is, on the whole, remarkably separate from the
literary territory of the South. The South has the Civil
War and slavery as its unique heritage; the Southwestern
motif is distinctly Spanish. The Indian occupies the tragic
center of Southwestern history and fiction, but it
is the Spanish culture that marks the area with its particular
regionalism. Spanish words are a part of Southwestern language;
Mexican food is almost as pervasive as pizza and hamburgers.
"Remember the Alamo" is still the ringing phrase
of the Southwest, and school children
in Texas celebrate the victory over Mexico on San Jacinto
Day, but the Mexican culture has not been
destroyed. . . .(Max Apple, from his Introduction to Southwest
A subordinate clause depends upon another clause, the independent
clause, to complete its meaning. For this reason, the
subordinate clause is sometimes called a "dependent" clause.
The subordinate clause is identifiable by the presence of
a subordinating conjunction such as after, although,
before, once, and whenever, although there
are many more to choose from. Each subordinating conjunction
establishes a specific relationship between the clauses,
often with subtle and important distinction. In addition,
a subordinate clause can create movement and style in a piece
of writing by directing the reader's attention ahead in anticipation
of the main clause, as in the following sentence:
Once Simone finishes the final exam, she
will join us at the graduation party
A subordinate clause can also direct the reader's attention
backwards, as in this sentence:
I ate the Col. Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken,
extra crispy, for lunch, although my doctor recommends
that I avoid fried food.
This ebb and flow movement adds variety and emphasis, helping
a writer get away from repetitive and boring sentences.
Common subordinating conjunctions...
Some common subordinating conjunctions are shown below and
on the next few tabs, along a description of how they are
|because, as, since
"Because," "as" and "since,"
can all be used to begin a clause giving the reason for
something happening. However, subtle differences
between these words should shape how you use them:
"Because" should be used
when the reason is the most important part of the
I arrived late because I had a
flat tire and had to call AAA to come and fix it.
"As" and "since" are
used when the reason has already been established:
Since you don't like scary movies,
then you probably shouldn't come with us to see Sawz.
"So that" is used to indicate
the effect or outcome of something:
So that she wouldn't be late for work, she set
her alarm clock for 6:00 a.m., giving her an extra
half hour to get ready.
Subordinating conjunctions: concession and comparison...
|Concession and Comparison
|although, though, even though, as though
"Though" is the most casual
of these terms used to show contrast. Use "even
though" when you want to show strong surprise
(the word "even" adds emphasis and is used
in combination with subordinators like "when," and "if")
Even though the particular causes of global warming
are not clear to me, I do understand the consequences.
"As though" is used to suggest that something
is highly unlikely to happen, or should not even be
considered reasonable. It is used in casual rather
than formal writing:
Gabriel asked me out last night, as though I had
shown any interest in him at all.
"As" is used to show similarities
As sand falls through an hourglass,
so fall the days of our lives.
As a thesis is the controlling
idea of an essay, a topic sentence is the controlling
idea of a paragraph.
"While"and "whereas" can
both be used to show contrast, but not contradiction. For
I have always liked the Rolling Stones, whereas
T.J. only likes their old stuff.
While white wine is good with fish and chicken,
red wine is better with meat.
Though I like to go out to eat, I don't like to
go to crowded restaurants.
Subordinating conjunctions: condition
|even though, though, although
Each of these three subordinating
conjunctions is used to indicate a contrasting condition.
"Though" is the least formal of the three. "Even
though" means "despite that fact that" and
is stronger than "though" and "although" in
emphasizing a condition for something.
Even though I am exhausted, I have to study for
my biology exam tonight.
|if, even if
"Even if" points to particular
conditions and means "whether or not." This
subordinator is interesting in that it suggests a hypothetical
situation as a condition.
Even if you were rich, I would not go out with
|provided that, as long as
"As long as" is a slightly
less formal version of "provided that." Both
subordinators are used to indicate a condition for
As long as you pay your own way,
you are welcome to come along.
"Unless" is used to specify
a negative condition; in other words, unless at the
beginning of a clause describes a condition that would
prevent something from happening. It is usually
used with verbs in the present tense to discuss a
We will meet at the soccer field,
unless it is raining.
Unless you can provide an alibi
for your actions at 10:15 last night, you are under
Subordinating conjunctions: place and time
||"Where" identifies the place
||...means no matter where: "Wherever
we went, we could find a MacDonald's."
"After refers to an event or
action that occurs after another event or action has
occured. (after "a,"
After you arrive in Hawaii, be
sure and call to let me know you have arrived safely.
After Angela took the ibuprofen,
her head felt much better.
|as soon as, as long as
"as long as" is used to
emphasize a particular duration of time:
As long as you live in this house,
you will abide by my rules.
"As soon as" is used to point
to something that will happen upon the completion of
As soon as you finish your dinner,
you may have desert.
"Before" refers to an event
or action that must occur before another event or action
can take place. (before
"a" happens, "b" must occur)
Before you leave for Hawaii, you
had better stop delivery on your newspaper.
"Until" means up to the
time, or until a certain event has taken place.
You cannot watch television until
you clean your room.
I didn't know who the bad guy was
until the last scene of the movie.
"Till" is similar to "until," though
less formal. It is not often used in introductory
Bush said today that we will stay
in Iraq till the war is won.
"Whenever," and also sometimes
"if" and "when," is used to indicate
a repeated occurence of something when certain conditions
arise. For example,
When I am in Berkeley, I will be
sure to visit you.
Whenever I drink red wine, I get
If I need advice, I will be sure
and call you.
|while, as, when
"While," "as," and "when" indicate
that things are happening simultaneously.
As I was printing out my notes
for the meeting, my boss called to tell me the
meeting was cancelled.
"While" is used to emphasize
While you were out celebrating,
I was home cleaning the house.
"As" and "when" are
used to describe short events:
The phone rang as I was on my way
out the door.
When you called, I was in the tub.
We also use "as" to show
that one thing is the consequence of another:
As you get older, you get wiser.
We often use "just" in combination
with "when" and "as" to describe
events happening simultaneously, or almost simultaneously:
Just as she turned to yell at him
for knocking her groceries out of her arms, he
Note also that with "while" and "when,"
it is perfectly correct to leave out the subject and
the "to be" verb form, as in the following
While walking the dog, he listens
to his iPod.
Mrs. Thompson likes to knit when
travelling on the train.
Coordination & subordination to organize an essay...
Coordination and subordination are also essential tools
in planning an essay or research paper. Ideas that support
a thesis can be said to be "subordinate" to that
thesis; similarly, ideas that support the controlling idea
of a paragraph are subordinate to that controlling idea. On
the other hand, ideas at the same level of detail, either
the supporting points of a particular paragraph, or the supporting
paragraphs taken together to support a thesis, are often "coordinate."
Consider the ways that coordination and subordination might
come into play in the following writing situations:
John is writing an analytical essay about
the novel Little Women. He wants to argue
that Laurie and Jo help one another reject social norms. He
has gathered several examples from the story showing how
they encourage one another to reject conformity, each example
illustrating a different social norm as well as how and
why they dismiss it.
Kevin is writing an essay about the changes
that come with leaving home to go to college. He
wants to argue that with this move, a person faces many
unexpected responsibilities. Kevin has a list of
these new responsiblities he would like to explore in his
essay: managing money, finding the self-motivation to study,
taking care of one's body, and working out new relationships
Ellen is writing an article for the school
paper to advocate a no-smoking-on-campus policy. She
has several reasons she wants to bring to her readers supporting
her argument: second-hand smoke is hazardous to non-smokers,
smokers set a bad example and cause others to want to smoke,
cigarette smoke leaves behind a stale and unpleasant odor,
and smokers litter the campus with cigarette butts.
Each of the above examples suggests a clear structure for
a paragraph or essay in that each writer has ideas that are
subordinate to a single controlling idea, and ideas that
are coordinate to each other. When the writer is aware
of the subordinate and coordinate relationships between ideas,
writing the essay is easier, and the final draft will be
easier for the reader to follow. Consider Ellen's outline
for her essay which grew out of her awareness of the subordinate
and coordinate relationships between her ideas:
Thesis: It is time to implement a no-smoking-on-campus
- Second-hand smoke is hazardous to non-smokers, even
- Smokers set a bad example, and encourage others to
think about smoking
- Cigarette smoke pollutes our campus:
(a) subpoint 1: cigarette smoke leaves behind an unpleasant
(b) subpoint 2: cigarette butts create an ugly mess
Reasons, effects, descriptive details, comparative elements,
and many more elements can be coordinate elements in sentences
developing the main idea of a paragraph, or as coordinate
paragraphs to develop a thesis (as in the above outline which
develops the thesis through paragraphs exploring reasons).
1. coordination & coordinating
in a series
4. common subordinating
5. concession & comparison
7. place & time
8. coordination & subordination
to organize an essay