Types of Subordinate Clauses

A clause is a group of related words containing a subject and a verb. There are two major types of clauses: 1) Main or Independent Clause, and 2) Subordinate or Dependent Clause.


  • I saw a man who was crying.

The part of the above sentence ‘I saw a man’ can stand alone as an independent sentence because it can give a complete meaning on its own. Such a clause is called the main clause or independent clause. On the other hand, the remaining part of the above sentence ‘who was crying’ cannot stand alone as a sentence because it (as alone part) cannot give a complete meaning. It depends on the main clause to give a complete meaning or sense. Such a clause is called a dependent clause or subordinate clause.

  Types of Subordinate Clause

A subordinate clause can act as an adjective, a noun or an adverb in a sentence. Based on its function in a sentence, subordinate clauses have the following three types.
  • Noun Clause
  • Adverb Clause
  • Adjective Clause


A subordinate clause that acts as a noun in a sentence is called a noun clause.

It usually starts with words such as ‘that, what, whatever, who, whom, whoever, whomever’. It acts exactly like a noun either at the place of a subject or an object within a sentence.


  • Whatever we study increases our knowledge.   (Noun as a subject).
  • What you eat determines your body size.          (Noun as a subject).
  • I buy whatever I need.                                        (Noun as an object).
  • Now I realized what you had said.                     (Noun as an object).


A subordinate clause that acts as an adjective in a sentence is called an adjective clause.

Like an adjective, it modifies (give more information about) a noun or pronoun in the sentence. An adjective clause mostly starts with relative pronouns such as ‘that, who, whom, whose, which, or whose’.


  • I saw a child who was crying.                           (modifies noun: child).
  • He hates the people who waste time.               (modifies noun: people).
  • I watched a movie which amused me a lot.     (modifies noun: movie).
  • The car, which I like, consumes less fuel.        (modifies noun: car).
  • The building, where he lives, consists of many apartments. (modifies noun: building).


A subordinate clause that acts as an adverb in a sentence is called an adjective clause.

Like an adverb, it modifies a verb, an adjective clause, or another adverb clause in the sentence. As a modifier, it gives more information about a verb of the main clause in terms of time, frequency (i.e., how often), condition, cause and effect relation, and intensity (i.e., to which extent).

It usually uses the following subordinating conjunctions:

  • 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


  • Call me when you need my help.                            (modifies verb: call).
  • Unless you avoid sugar, you can’t lose weight.     (modifies verb: lose weight).
  • The patient had died before the doctor came.       (modifies verb: die).
  • You live a happy life as long as you think positively.    (modifies verb: live).
  • I worked in a factory while I was living in London.       (modifies verb: work).
  • You can succeed in life provided that you are sincere in your work. (modifies verb: succeed).