Grammar · Novel Writing

Subordinate Clauses Darling

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.

Main Clauses

  • We walk home from the hospital
  • I turn to look at Annie
  • Annie is wrapped up in a coat

Subordinate Clauses

  • 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.

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Grammar · Novel Writing

Introducing the Main Clause

Hello, lovely people of the Grammar loving (or hating) variety. I hope you are well? Good? Great. Please, may I have the honour of introducing you to my esteemed friend the Main Clause? Yes? Fantastic, let’s begin.

Without Mr. Main Clause nothing in my life would make sense, he is a standup guy, in fact, if you take him out of a long sentence he’ll just stand alone as a new sentence all by himself. Other clauses are lost without him, oh yes, he is a leader my Mr. Main Clause. The foundation of every sentence I have ever written.

Here are the main facts we need to know about Main Clauses –

  • They make sense independently of any other clause
  • Other subordinate or dependent clauses (more on these later) need main clauses to make sense
  • Main clauses are the only types of clauses that can make up one sentence without any other types of clauses within them (my goodness what a mouthful).
  • A paragraph made up of only main clauses generally sounds abrupt, staccato, and, well, rubbish

Let’s identify a couple of main clauses from my work in progress

She tenses as a contraction sweeps through her body, her painted red fingernails digging into my arms, imprinting small half moon shapes in my flesh.

  • A contraction (subject) sweeps (verb) through her
  • Fingernails (subject) dig (verb) into my arm

I could have written this with only main clauses, but where is the fun in that?

Main Clauses are the structures that we hang the details, subtleties, and descriptions from within our prose. Nothing would make sense, and everything would crumble without them. Come back next week to read about subordinate and dependent clauses.

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Grammar · Novel Writing

How many Clauses does it take to Make a Sentence?

In last weeks Grammar Bootcamp, we looked at clauses and learned a simple definition of them. 

Clause = Subject + Verb

Easy peasy! Today we will look into clauses within sentences, and how there is no set number of clauses within a sentence.

One Clause Sentences

Some sentences are made up of one clause; they are the simple sentences that I wouldn’t recommend you use too often in your novels as they can make your writing choppy and annoying. However, when used well, they can add drama and flavour to your work. Here’s an example of a hook from my current work in progress.

Then he shot her, dead.

The subject of this clause is the person “he” is describing, and the verb is “shot.” My subject has shot someone and killed them (I’m writing a thriller can you tell?).

Multiple Clause Sentences

Sentences with multiple clauses are what we use to make up the majority of our writing. Let me show you why with another excerpt from my work in progress.

 I release the lock, and she tumbles through the door, almost knocking me to the ground.

Here we have three clauses –

  1. The lock (subject) is released (verb)
  2. She (subject) tumbles (verb)
  3. She (subject) almost knocks someone over (verb – or at least a verb describing what almost happened)

How boring will this passage sound if I rewrite it with a single clause per sentence?

I release the lock. She tumbles through the door. She almost knocks me to the ground.

I don’t know about you, but I think the original version reads better than the one clause per sentence version. 

So, as aspiring authors do we need to know the definition of clauses to write great fiction? No, not at all, but I think that in understanding the meaning of a clause I can see the beauty and variation that they bring to my writing.

englishgrammarbootcamp

Grammar · Novel Writing

English Grammar Bootcamp

It is a truth universally acknowledged that aspiring and motivated authors are all in want of a Grammar Bootcamp.

 Well, maybe not universally acknowledged, but English grammar is certainly a common struggle for many of us. So I’ve decided to go back to basics and refresh myself on all the ground rules of our writing craft. Check in each week or follow my blog to find the next instalment, I’m hoping it will be simple, beneficial, and a good old barrel of laughs!

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Please, be aware that as I live in the UK, this will relate specifically to British English, but I’m sure there will be relevant points for everyone.