A Subordinating Conjunction (sometimes called a dependent word or subordinator) comes at the beginning of a Subordinate (or Dependent) Clause and establishes the relationship between the dependent clause and the rest of the sentence. It also turns the clause into something that depends on the rest of the sentence for its meaning.
- He took to the stage as though he had been preparing for this moment all his life.
- Because he loved acting, he refused to give up his dream of being in the movies.
- Unless we act now, all is lost.
Notice that some of the subordinating conjunctions in the table below — after, before, since — are also prepositions, but as subordinators they are being used to introduce a clause and to subordinate the following clause to the independent element in the sentence.
Common Subordinating Conjunctions
as long as
in order that
The Case of Like and As
Strictly speaking, the word like is a preposition, not a conjunction. It can, therefore, be used to introduce a prepositional phrase ("My brother is tall like my father"), but it should not be used to introduce a clause ("My brother can't play the piano
In formal, academic text, it's a good idea to reserve the use of like for situations in which similarities are being pointed out:
However, when you are listing things that have similarities, such as is probably more suitable:
The word that is used as a conjunction to connect a subordinate clause to a preceding verb. In this construction that is sometimes called the "expletive that." Indeed, the word is often omitted to good effect, but the very fact of easy omission causes some editors to take out the red pen and strike out the conjunction that wherever it appears. In the following sentences, we can happily omit the that (or keep it, depending on how the sentence sounds to us):
Sometimes omitting the that creates a break in the flow of a sentence, a break that can be adequately bridged with the use of a comma:
As a general rule, if the sentence feels just as good without the that, if no ambiguity results from its omission, if the sentence is more efficient or elegant without it, then we can safely omit the that. Theodore Bernstein lists three conditions in which we should maintain the conjunction that:
Authority for this section: Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage by Theodore Bernstein. Gramercy Books: New York. 1999. p. 217. Examples our own.
Beginning a Sentence with Because
Somehow, the notion that one should not begin a sentence with the subordinating conjunction because retains a mysterious grip on people's sense of writing proprieties. This might come about because a sentence that begins with because could well end up a fragment if one is not careful to follow up the "because clause" with an independent clause.
When the "because clause" is properly subordinated to another idea (regardless of the position of the clause in the sentence), there is absolutely nothing wrong with it: