Sentence combining techniques 2

Once you have mastered the basics of correct usage in written English, you will want to express yourself in increasingly complex ways. Subordination is a method of combining independent clauses with dependent clauses by using sentence connectors. This results in a complex sentence that can improve the formality and sophistication of your writing style. Subordination techniques for writing complex sentences are:

Use a subordinating conjunction

Subordinating conjunctions are used in complex sentences. They are part of the clause which follows and make the clause dependent. Clauses which begin with subordinating conjunctions are sometimes called adverbial clauses.

Subordinating conjunctions indicate the following relationships:

Subordinating conjunctions Indicative relationship
after, as soon as, as long as, before, ever since, as, while Time
because, since Causality
although, though, even though, whereas, while Concession and contrast
if, provided that, unless Condition
so that, in order that Purpose
where Place
so that Result
than Comparison

If the dependent clause appears first, use a comma to separate the two clauses. No comma is required if the independent clause appears first.

CORRECT: Even though procrastination can be quite a natural response to facing some onerous tasks, it can cause anxiety for students faced with assessment tasks.

CORRECT: Procrastination can cause anxiety for students faced with assessment tasks even though it can be quite a natural response to facing some onerous tasks. 

INCORRECT: Procrastination can cause anxiety for students faced with assessment tasks, even though it can be quite a natural response to facing some onerous tasks.

CORRECT: As students who procrastinate often show a lack of prioritising skills, training in time management strategies is often helpful.

CORRECT: Training in time management strategies is often helpful as students who procrastinate often show a lack of prioritising skills. 

INCORRECT: Training in time management strategies is often helpful, as students who procrastinate often show a lack of prioritising skills. 

Not all complex sentences can be inverted.

CORRECT: The average temperature was much higher than it was last year.

INCORRECT: Than it was last year, the average temperature was much higher.

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Use a relative pronoun

Relative pronouns are used in complex sentences. They are part of the clause which follows a noun or noun group and make the clause dependent. Clauses which begin with relative pronouns are sometimes called relative clauses or adjectival clauses. Use a relative clause to give more information about a noun or pronoun.

Relative pronouns To refer to:
who, whose and whom people
which animals andor things
that people and/or things

 

Students who lack self awareness of their study behaviours are more likely to suffer from procrastination habits.
Placement of the relative clause

Because a relative clause appears immediately after the noun or pronoun it modifies, it is frequently embedded in the independent clause. Study the following examples carefully. The relative clause is in italics.

CORRECT: A student who lacks confidence and fears failure will often be unable to accomplish a task successfully.

INCORRECT: A student will often be unable to accomplish a task successfully who lacks confidence and fears failure.

Non-defining clauses (punctuate with commas)

You will notice that a comma appears before and after some adjectival clauses.

Use a comma before and after a relative clause when the information it provides does NOT identify the noun it modifies, but adds further characterisation to it.

These clauses are called non-defining clauses.

This student, who attends all the classes, suffers from procrastination when faced with assignments. 

Excessive procrastination, which is task avoidance, can cause poor performance.

Defining clauses (do not punctuate with commas)

A relative clause, essential to defining the noun it modifies, is called a defining clause, and commas are not used. In these examples, removal of the relative clause would change the overall meaning of the sentence.

Students who fail to submit assignments by the set date will be penalised.

The fundamental technique that most successfully solves procrastination is the use of time management strategies. 

Avoid overuse of relative clauses

Overuse of relative clauses results in wordiness. If you are having word count problems, many relative clauses can be reduced to shorter phrases.

Compare the following examples:

Students who fail to submit assignments by the set date will be penalised.

Students failing to submit assignments by the set date will be penalised.

The fundamental technique that most successfully solves procrastination is the use of time management strategies.

The fundamental technique for successfully solving procrastination is the use of time management strategies.

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