English Grammar

The Basics of English Language

Types of Subordinate Clause


                           Functions of Subordinate Clause.


A subordinate (dependent) clause may function as a noun, an adjective or an adverb in sentence. On the basis of their function in a sentence, subordinate clauses can be divided in to following types.

   1. Noun Clause
   2. Adjective Clause.
   3. Adverb Clause


Noun Clause

   “A dependent clause that functions as a noun in a sentence is called noun clause.”
A noun clause performs same function like a noun in a sentence.

        What he did made a problem for his family.

In above sentence the clause “what he did” functions as a noun, hence it is a noun clause. A noun clause works as a noun that acts as a subject, object, or predicate in a sentence. A noun clause starts with words “that, what, whatever, who, whom, whoever, whomever”.

          Whatever you learn will help you in future.     (noun clause as a subject)
          What you said made me laugh.                        (noun clause as a subject)
          He knows that he will pass the test.               (noun clause as an object)
          Now I realize what he would have thought.    (noun clause as an object)


Adjective Clause

       “A dependent clause that functions as an adjective in a sentence is called adjective clause.”      
An adjective clause works like adjective in a sentence. The function of an adjective is to modify (describe) a noun or a pronoun. Similarly a noun clause modifies a noun or  a pronoun.

He wears a shirt which looks nice.

The clause “which looks nice” in above sentence is an adjective clause because it modifies noun “shirt” in the sentence.
An adjective clause always precedes the noun it modifies.


               I met the boy who had helped me.
               An apple that smells bad is rotten.
               The book which I like is helpful in preparation for test.
               The house where I live consists of four rooms.
               The person who was shouting needed help.

Adjective clause begins with relative pronoun (that, who, whom, whose, which, or whose) and is also relative clause.

Adjective (relative) clauses can be restrictive clause or nonrestrictive clause


Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Clauses

                Adjective (relative) clauses can be restrictive clause or nonrestrictive clause. A restrictive clause limits the meaning of preceding noun or pronoun. A nonrestrictive clause tells us something about preceding noun or pronoun but does not limit the meaning of preceding noun or pronoun.


•The student in the class who studied a lot passed the test. (restrictive clause)
•The student in the class, who had attended all the lectures, passed the      test.                      (nonrestrictive clause)

In the first sentence the clause “who studied a lot” restrict information to preceding noun(student), it means that there is only one student in the class who studied a lot, hence it is a restrictive clause.

In the second sentence the clause “who had attended all the lectures” gives us information about preceding noun but does not limit this information to the preceding noun. It  means there can be several other students in the class who had attended all the lectures.

A comma is always used before a restrictive clause in a sentence and also after nonrestrictive clause if it is within a main clause. “That” is usually used to introduce a restrictive clause while “which” is used to introduce a nonrestrictive clause.

           The table that costs $ 100 is made of steel.             (restrictive clause)
           The table, which costs $ 100, is made of steel.        (nonrestrictive clause)


Adverb Clause

    “A dependent clause that functions as an adverb in a sentence is called adverb clause”
An adverb clause like an adverb modifies a verb, adjective clause or other adverb clause in a sentence. It modifies(describes) the situation in main clause in terms of “time, frequency (how often),  cause and effect, contrast, condition, intensity (to what extent).”

The subordinating conjunctions used for adverb clauses are as follows.

Time: when, whenever, since, until, before, after, while, as, by the time, as soon as
Cause and effect: because, since, now that, as long as, so, so that,
Contrast: although, even, whereas, while, though
Condition: if, unless, only if, whether or not, even if, providing or provided that, in case

          Don’t go before he comes.
          He takes medicine because he is ill.
          Although he tried a lot, he couldn’t climb up the tree.
          Unless you study for the test, you can’t pass it.
          I will go to the school unless it rains.      
          You are safe as long as you drive carefully.
          You can achieve anything provided that you struggle for it.