Monday, November 23, 2009

I Have Been Moved to Explain the Difference Between Coordinating and Subordinating Conjunctions


When it comes to determining whether a conjunction that joins clauses is a coordinating conjunction or a subordinating conjunction, there is a simple syntactic movement test that will reveal the answer.

To start with, coordinating conjunctions join independent clauses and the conjunction doing the joining is not attached to either clause. (The above "and" is a coordinating conjunction)

Subordinating conjunctions join dependent clauses to independent clauses and the conjunction doing the joining is attached to the dependent clause. (The above "and" is also a coordinating conjunction)

So, what does movement have to do with this?

Look at the examples below:

1. Joe loves snowboarding and Jack loves skiing.

2. Jack loves skiing because Joe loves snowboarding.

To determine which type of conjunction each sentence has, try moving the conjunction and its following clause to the front of each sentence.

Here are the resulting sentences:

1. *And Jack loves skiing, Joe loves snowboarding.

2. Because Joe loves snowboarding, Jack loves skiing.

The ungrammaticality of sentence 1 is marked with the asterisk.

The fact that the conjunction in sentence 2 can move with the clause that follows it, indicates that the conjunction is attached to the clause and thus the clause is dependent; in other words, the clause is subordinate to the main clause in the sentence and is linked by a subordinating conjunction.

By the way...There are different types of dependent clauses, but I will save talking about them for another day, because they deserve special attention. (The above "but" is a coordinating conjunction and the "because" is a subordinating conjunction)

*But I will save them for another day, there are different types of subordinating conjunctions.

Because they deserve special attention, I will save talking about them for another day.

1 comment:

Rimpy said...

That's really interesting. Thanks!

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