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Subordinate clauses: Semantic Types

11.4 Subordinate Clauses: Semantic Types

Here we will look at subordinate clauses from the point of view of their meaning. The main semantic types are exemplified in the following table:

Subordinate Clause Type



I'll ring you again [before I leave]

David joined the army [after he graduated]

[When you leave], please close the door

I read the newspaper [while I was waiting]


I'll be there at nine [if I can catch the early train]

[Provided he works hard], he'll do very well at school

Don't call me [unless its an emergency]


He bought me a lovely gift, [although he can't really afford it]

[Even though he worked hard], he failed the final exam

[While I don't agree with her], I can understand her viewpoint


Paul was an hour late [because he missed the train]

I borrowed your lawn mower, [since you weren't using it]

[As I don't know the way], I'll take a taxi


The kitchen was flooded, [so we had to go to a restaurant]

I've forgotten my password, [so I can't read my email]


This is a lot more difficult [than I expected]

She earns as much money [as I do]

I think London is less crowded [than it used to be]

The table does not cover all the possible types, but it does illustrate many of the various meanings which can be expressed by subordinate clauses.

Notice that the same word can introduce different semantic types. For instance, the word while can introduce a temporal clause:

I read the newspaper [while I was waiting]

or a concessive clause:

[While I don't agree with her], I can understand her viewpoint.

Similarly, the word since can express time:

I've known him [since he was a child]

as well as reason:

I borrowed your lawn mower, [since you weren't using it]

In the following exercise, be aware of words like these, which can introduce more than one type of subordinate clause.

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