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SUBORDINATION AND SUBORDINATION AND
CLASSIFICATION OF CLASSIFICATION OF
SUBORDINATE CLAUSES SUBORDINATE CLAUSES
Complex sentences: sentences that consist of Complex sentences: sentences that consist of
more than one clause. more than one clause.
Such sentences usually consist of Such sentences usually consist of matrix matrix clause clause
and at least one and at least one subordinate subordinate clause. clause.
Matrix and subordinate clause do not have the Matrix and subordinate clause do not have the
same syntactic status: subordinate clauses are same syntactic status: subordinate clauses are
syntactically dependent of matrix clause. syntactically dependent of matrix clause.
All subordinate clauses are embedded within All subordinate clauses are embedded within
another clause, therefore they are known as another clause, therefore they are known as
embedded embedded clauses, e.g.: clauses, e.g.:
-- I I wondered wondered [whether they wanted Lee to go]. [whether they wanted Lee to go].
- - If you compare Lee with Kim, you If you compare Lee with Kim, you should should
find find [that Kim is taller]. [that Kim is taller].
Properties of subordinate clauses: Properties of subordinate clauses:
1. they are often introduced by a small functional
element known as complementizer or subordinator.
The verb in the matrix clause not only selects a
subordinate clause, it selects a subordinate
clause with specific properties, and often, a
specific type of complementizer.
e.g. *I wondered that Lee had gone.
2. Many subordinate clauses contain only a non-
finite verb form.
e.g. They want [to leave before breakfast].
3. Non-finite complement clauses usually have
no overt subject, they have only an understood
subject.
An alternative option is a non-finite
subordinate clause with an overt subject, e.g.
They want [the girls to leave before breakfast].
Another role that subordinate clauses can fulfil:
e.g. [That Chris liked Lee so much] really surprises me.
These subordinate clauses are known as clausal subjects
(or sentential subjects), because they are clauses, but also
fulfil the requirement for the matrix verbs to have a
subject.
Subordination is not generally restricted to just one
embedded clause.
In most languages, complex sentences contain a
potentially infinite number of subordinate clauses, e.g.
They want to know whether wed expect to leave before breakfast.
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Such examples of recursion are typical for some
languages.
Each subordinate clause is dependent on the
clause above it, and contained, or embedded,
within the clause upstairs.
Each verb selects the following dependent
clause as its complement.
Not all subordinate clauses are
complements required arguments of a
matrix verb.
Optional subordinate clauses are usually Optional subordinate clauses are usually
adverbial clauses, e.g. adverbial clauses, e.g.
-- He suddenly appeared, He suddenly appeared, although nobody although nobody
expected him. expected him.
- - If youre leaving early, please get up
quietly.
a. Mel will come to work [after she gets paid].
b. [Because it was before dawn], we got up quietly.
c. We walked up the hill [(in order) to see the
castle].
d. We walked up the hill [for Lee to see the castle].
e. We walked up the hill [so (that) Lee could see
the castle].
f. [While shutting the window], I accidentally
knocked over the flowers.
Some facts about main/root and Some facts about main/root and
subordinate clauses subordinate clauses
1. 1. Not all subordinate clauses are optional, Not all subordinate clauses are optional,
some are required. some are required.
2. 2. Not all subordinate clauses would be possible Not all subordinate clauses would be possible
independent clauses (only if they have a finite independent clauses (only if they have a finite
verb form). verb form).
3. 3. Subordinate clause may precede and/or Subordinate clause may precede and/or
follow the verb in the main clause. follow the verb in the main clause.
4. 4. In a complex sentence there is just one main In a complex sentence there is just one main
clause, but a potentially infinite number of clause, but a potentially infinite number of
subordinate clauses. subordinate clauses.
5. 5. Each clause contains a main verb (a verb that Each clause contains a main verb (a verb that
carries most of the semantic content in a clause, carries most of the semantic content in a clause,
not an auxiliary). not an auxiliary).
6. 6. Only matrix clauses have subject/auxiliary Only matrix clauses have subject/auxiliary
inversion, e.g. inversion, e.g. Did Mel persuade Kim to cook a nice Did Mel persuade Kim to cook a nice
meal? meal?
7. 7. Only matrix clause can have tag questions, e.g. Only matrix clause can have tag questions, e.g.
We persuaded Kim to cook a nice meal, didnt we? We persuaded Kim to cook a nice meal, didnt we?
Verbless clause: Verbless clause:
ellipsis of the verb to be ellipsis of the verb to be
the subject, when omitted, can be treated as the subject, when omitted, can be treated as
recoverable from the context: recoverable from the context: Whether right or Whether right or
wrong wrong, he will never be able to prove it. , he will never be able to prove it.
it can also be treated as reduction of non it can also be treated as reduction of non--finite finite
clause, e.g. clause, e.g. Too nervous to reply Too nervous to reply, she stared at the , she stared at the
floor. (Being too nervous....) floor. (Being too nervous....)
it is basically an elliptical verb clause, the it is basically an elliptical verb clause, the
variations of its structure are limited; the most variations of its structure are limited; the most
often patterns are SVSC and SVA often patterns are SVSC and SVA
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Nominal clauses Nominal clauses
that that--clause, e.g. clause, e.g. I told him I told him that he was wrong that he was wrong..
wh wh--interrogative clause: interrogative clause: How the book will sell How the book will sell
depends on its author. depends on its author.
yes yes--no interrogative clause: no interrogative clause: I dont know I dont know whether whether
they will come they will come..
nominal nominal--relative clause: relative clause: Home is Home is where your where your
friends and family are. friends and family are.
to to--infinitive nominal clause: infinitive nominal clause: His wish is His wish is to be a to be a
pilot. pilot.
nominal nominal--ing clause: ing clause: Telling lies Telling lies is wrong is wrong..
bare infinitive and verbless clause. bare infinitive and verbless clause.
Exercises Exercises
I. Try to decide which of the subordinate clauses are
adjuncts and which are complements. In the case of the
complement clauses, what verbs are they a complement
to?
a. When Kim got on the train, someone said shed left
her rucksack in the middle of the platform on a trolley.
b. Unless we want to arrive late, we really need to be
leaving now.
c. To get to class on time, set your alarm for about 6.15
every Wednesday.
d. To arrive on time feels brilliant.
e. I promise to cook the meal while you sort the
groceries.
II. Identify the Nominal clause and its function II. Identify the Nominal clause and its function
within the sentence: within the sentence:
1. 1. I cant imagine what made him do it. I cant imagine what made him do it.
2. 2. Whether she is late or not doesnt concern me. Whether she is late or not doesnt concern me.
3. 3. I am sure that things will improve. I am sure that things will improve.
4. 4. What he is looking for is a book. What he is looking for is a book.
5. 5. His favourite hobby is playing basketball. His favourite hobby is playing basketball.
6. 6. She likes everyone to be happy. She likes everyone to be happy.
7. 7. Wall Wall--to to--wall carpet in every room is very wall carpet in every room is very
expensive. expensive.
8. 8. She was irritated by what you said. She was irritated by what you said.
9. That he is not interested in the offer is known to us.
10. The belief that the soul is immortal is almost
universal.
11. The king ordered that the traitor should be put to
death.
12. That he should refuse to pay his share was annoying.