Exploring subordinate clauses

Learning focus

To use subordinate clauses to add extra information.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos

  • three activities


Watch this short clip to learn about what a subordinate clause is.

Learn the difference between a major clause and a subordinate clause.

The major clause in a sentence (sometimes called a main clause) makes complete sense on its own. Nothing needs to be added to help it make sense. ‎

For example: Ella works hard at school.

If you want to add more information to this sentence to explain where, when or why, you add a subordinate ‎clause.‎

For example: Ella works hard at school when there are no distractions.

Subordinate clauses always add to the information that is already given in the major clause. They don’t just give a new point – the information should be linked.

Top tip!

  • Subordinate clauses can also go at the start of sentences. When this happens, the whole subordinate clause moves to the front and is followed by a comma.

For example: When there are no distractions, Ella works hard at school.

When you add a subordinate clause to a major clause, you need to use a subordinating conjunction to link them together.

For example: Ella works hard at school when there are no distractions.

Some common subordinating conjunctions include:

  • because
  • when
  • after
  • so
  • as
  • until

Watch this clip to learn more about subordinating conjunctions.

Learn about subordinating conjunctions and when to use them.

Another example is: Laura smiled because dancing was fun!

  • 'Laura smiled' is the major clause. It makes sense all on its own.

  • 'because dancing was fun!' is the subordinate clause. It adds additional information to the main clause and wouldn't make sense on its own.

  • 'because' is the subordinating conjunction. It helps to add the extra information to explain why Laura was smiling.


You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Highlight the subordinating conjunction in each sentence.

Click on the activity below to begin.

Activity 2

Next, write these sentences out on paper and underline the subordinate clauses.

Top tip!

  • The subordinating conjunction will be a word like because, so and after.
  • The subordinating clause will be the part of the sentence that does not make sense on its own.

1. John was rapidly riding his bike home because he didn’t want to miss his favourite TV show.

2. Mittens the cat meowed at the door so she could be let in.

3. I was allowed to play on my computer game after I had finished my homework.

4. Miss Jones said we could play outside when it had stopped raining.

5. “You are not having a cookie until you finish your vegetables,” exclaimed Mum.

You can check your answers using this answer sheet.

Activity 3

Time for more? Have a go at writing five sentences about your friends or family. Include a subordinate clause in each sentence.

Use these common subordinating conjunctions to help you: when, after, before, because, as, so, although.

Top tip!

  • Think of a major clause first: My sister loves skateboarding.

  • Then choose a subordinating conjunction and finish the sentence with the subordinate clause: My sister loves skateboarding so she practises every day.

Where next?

In this lesson you have learned how to use subordinate clauses to add extra information.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you with grammar.

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