If you stopped by last week, you’d know we had a delightful time discussing Main Clauses, the cornerstones of complete sentences. Today, we will be focusing on the delights that are subordinate or dependent clauses.
Subordinate clauses are the peppercorn sauce on your steak, the brandy butter on your Christmas Pudding, and the vanilla syrup in your latte. They are the little extras that bring joy to your taste buds, but just don’t work as a meal in themselves. I’m not ashamed to say that as a twenty-seven-year-old woman I recently ate Fruit Pastilles, Quality Street, and Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments all day long with no “proper” food alongside them. To say I felt unwell would be an understatement, and not because I ate too much but because what I ate had no substance.
Subordinate clauses are like that, they are the added extra that makes writing sparkle, but on their own, they just don’t work.
Here’s an excerpt from my work in progress, I’ll highlight the main and subordinate clauses for you.
The night air tickles my cheeks as we walk home from the hospital, and I turn to look at Annie, wrapped up in the grey, checked winter coat that she loves.
- We walk home from the hospital
- I turn to look at Annie
- Annie is wrapped up in a coat
- Night air tickles
- The coat is grey with a checked pattern
- She loves the coat
There is flavour added by the subordinate clauses that would have been lost without them, we know that the night is cold, that Annie is wearing a grey check coat and that she loves it. If we had just used main clauses, we would have lost detail and interest, but if we just used subordinate clauses we wouldn’t care about the temperature or what coat she is wearing because we wouldn’t understand why it is relevant.
It’s the balance of main and subordinate clauses that makes our writing interesting, and many of us do this without even noticing it.