Coordination‏‎ & Subordination in English Grammar

Language Functions

Cartoon showing acrobats performing in sync.

Coordination and Subordination are the grammatical terms we use to talk about joining 2 clauses together.

The usual pattern is this:

{clause} + {conjunction} + {clause}

Coordination

If clauses which we combine are independent clauses (that is, if they can stand on their own) then we talk about coordination and we use a coordinating conjunction such as and, but, etc.

For example, here are 2 independent clauses:

Yesterday I bought eggs and milk.

Today I’m making a cake.

This is how we join them:

{independent clause} + {coordinating conjunction} + {independent clause}

Yesterday I bought eggs and milk + and + today I’m making a cake.

Other examples:

You can send your CV by post.
Email it to us.

You can send your CV by post or email it to us.

The jumper was the wrong size.
She took it back to the store.

The jumper was the wrong size so she took it back to the store.

Subordination

Subordination is when the conjunction turns an independent clause into a subordinate clause.

For example, here are 2 independent clauses:

Yesterday I bought eggs and milk.

Today I’m making a cake.

If we use a subordinate conjunction‏ to join them it looks like this:

{independent clause} + {subordinate conjunction} + {independent clause}

Yesterday I bought eggs and milk + because + today I’m making a cake.

When this happens, the independent clause to which the conjunction is attached becomes a subordinate clause (i.e. one which cannot stand on its own):

because today I’m making a cake.

Coordination/Subordination in the TEFL Classroom

Do you need to teach coordination and subordination?

Probably not. In other words, you probably don’t need to give an explicit lesson on what these two terms are and how you use them and the difference between them.

However, as a TEFL teacher you should know the difference yourself in case it comes up in class.

Useful Links

Conjunctions‏‎ In English Grammar – a look at other types of conjunctions.

Image © Double–M

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