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The Subordinator in English Grammar

The Subordinator in English Grammar

Subordinators in English grammar are words that introduce subordinate or dependent clauses. The three dependent clauses in English are noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverb clauses. Subordinating conjunctions including relative pronouns perform the grammatical function of subordinator.

Noun Clauses

Subordinating conjunctions that introduce noun clauses are also referred to as noun clause markers. Some of the noun clause markers in English that function as subordinators include:

  • that
  • Ø
  • if
  • whether
  • who
  • whom
  • whoever
  • whomever
  • what
  • when
  • where
  • wherever
  • how
  • why
  • for

For example:

  • That the museum shuttered its door upset everyone.
  • Whether he gets married is not your concern.
  • My mother enjoys where my father selected for their vacation.
  • Whoever claimed that the Earth is flat is outright incorrect.

Noun clause markers can also perform other grammatical function in addition to subordinator. For example, the sentence Whoever claimed that the Earth is flat is outright incorrect contains two noun clauses: whoever claimed that the Earth is flat and that the Earth is flat. Both whoever and that are noun clause markers that function as subordinators. However, the noun clause marker whoever also functions as the subject of the noun clause Whoever claimed that the Earth is flat.

Noun Clause Markers

Noun Clause Markers Grammar Tree

Adjective Clauses

Subordinating conjunctions that introduce adjective clauses are also referred to as relative pronouns. Some of the relative in English that introduce adjective clauses are:

  • who
  • whom
  • that
  • which
  • Ø
  • whose
  • when
  • where
  • why

For example:

  • The glittered one is the ball that she was tossing.
  • Those trees is the park where she met him.
  • My dog who eats special food has kidney issues.
  • The toddler whom she saved at the playground lives down the street.

Similar to noun clause markers that introduce noun clauses, relative pronouns also perform additional syntactic functions in addition to the function of subordinator. The other grammatical functions of relative pronouns are subject, direct object, object complement, indirect object, prepositional complement, determinative, and adjunct adverbial.

Relative Pronoun

Relative Pronoun Grammar Tree

Adverb Clauses

Subordinating conjunctions finally introduce adverbs clauses. Some of the subordinating conjunctions in English that introduce adverb clauses are:

  • after
  • although
  • as
  • as long as
  • as soon as
  • as though
  • because
  • before
  • even if
  • even though
  • how
  • if
  • lest
  • now that
  • provided
  • since
  • so that
  • than
  • that
  • though
  • unless
  • until
  • when
  • whenever
  • where
  • wherever
  • while

For example:

  • Aarav made cookies after he baked a cake.
  • Before you leave, please sign the log book.
  • Shanequa scrubbed the bathtub until her arms ached.
  • Even though Zhang Wei brought her water, Mai Ling fainted.

Subordinating conjunctions that introduce adverb clauses perform only the grammatical function of subordinator.

A subordinator is a word that introduces a subordinate clause. Subordinating conjunctions include noun clause markers and relative pronouns in English grammar.

Summary

Subordinators in English grammar are words including the function word that that introduce dependent or subordinate clauses including noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverb clauses. Function words perform definite grammatical functions but lack definite lexical meaning.

Subordinator is a grammatical function.

The grammatical form that can function as the subordinator in English grammar is the subordinating conjunction including noun clause markers and relative pronouns.

The term noun clause marker is also used for subordinating conjunctions that introduce noun clauses. The term relative pronoun is also used for subordinating conjunctions that introduce adjective clauses.

Some subordinating conjunctions that function as subordinators include that, which, who, because, and after. (Note that many noun clause markers and relative pronouns perform other syntactic functions in addition to the grammatical function of subordinator.)

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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