Coordination and Subordination

Coordination and Subordination are ways of combining words, phrases, and clauses into more complex forms. The discussion below examines coordination and subordination of clauses.

COORDINATION — uses coordinating conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs (with appropriate punctuation), or punctuation to combine short independent clauses into a single sentence. Coordination implies the balance of elements that are of equal semantic value in the sentence.

Example:
The football game has been postponed. We'll have to do something else. (2 simple sentences with no coordination or subordination, but note how coordination occurs below).

 

SUBORDINATION — uses subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns to transform independent clauses (main clauses or ideas) into dependent clauses (subordinate clauses or ideas). Subordinate clauses are subordinate to (and thus hold less semantic value than) the independent clause(s) to which they are linked.

Example:
The football game has been postponed. We'll have to do something else. (2 simple sentences with no coordination or subordination but note how subordination occurs below)

 

Example:
The lab results confirm our diagnosis. They have been sent to the attending physician. (2 simple sentences with no coordination or subordination but note how subordination occurs below)

 

A note about one type of subject of a verb, a false subject of sorts.

Expletives — are words that serve a placeholder function in a sentence and often fill in for the real subject of a clause. Expletives often begin sentences and miscue the reader as to what the real subject is. Common expletives are "there," "it," and "here." When you see the words "there," "it," or "here" followed by a "to be" linking verb (e.g., was, were, is, are), you should check whether the sentence is starting with an expletive. See if you can reorder the sentence so that the real subject precedes the verb. Reordering the parts may help you identify the grammatical subject.

"There is a car across the street" should really read as:
A car is across the street.

"It is hard to write well" should really read as:
To write well is hard.

"Here is the report about the oil spill" should really read as:
The report about the oil spill is here

When we start discussing style in more detail, we will first discuss expletives as miscues and ways that writers waste words and delay meaning. By the end of the course, we will discover that effective writers can use them sparingly to delay information and intentionally shift the sentence.

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