What is Subordination and Coordination? Types and Examples

What is Subordination and Coordination? Types and Examples

Glad to find you reading this post. I am sure you are familiar with the term co-worker or subordinates. The former talks about colleagues at work while the latter refers to junior staff at work. It is also the same with linguistic elements or structures. Some play subordinate roles while others have equal standing. The post (What is Subordination and Coordination? Types and Examples) explains the process by which we link clauses together in English depending on the status of the clauses.

What is Subordination and Coordination? Types and Examples

The strategies of achieving subordination and coordination in English is through the use of subordinators and coordinators. We refer to them as binders and linkers. They are also devices for connecting words, phrases, clauses and sentence. Let us begin by examining the concept of subordination and allied matters and also consider coordination and its allied matters.

What is Subordination? 

Subordination is a process by which we link a clause that is inferior in status to another clause that is superior in linguistic status. The way we achieve this linkage is through the use of Subordinators. Subordinators belong to the Part of Speech we refer to as Conjunction. You must have heard about Subordinating Conjunctions, these are also called subordinators. Let us demonstrate the concept of subordination by the examples below:

  • I dislike quinine/it is very bitter.
  • He ate his breakfast/he left for work.
  • She will not attend to you/you pay your fees.
  • He failed the course/he is brilliant.
  • I was coming/I saw him.

The two segments of each of the five sentences above are examples of independent clauses. They have equal status; but once we introduce a subordinator, one of the two segments of each sentence becomes a subordinate clause as we can show below:

  • I dislike quinine because it is very bitter.
  • He ate his breakfast before he left for work.
  • She will not attend to you until you pay your fees.
  • He failed the course although he is brilliant.
  • I was coming when I saw him.

The introduction of the subordinators highlighted above has made the clauses the introduce dependent clauses. Typically, complex sentences contain a subordinate clause and the main clause while compound-complex sentences contain two main clauses and, at least, a subordinate clause. 

Types of Subordinators 

There are two major types of subordinators. Let me show you and explain them… 

Simple Subordinators 

These types of subordinators are so called because are one-word subordinators like we see in the examples given above. More examples of simple subordinators include since, if, though, however, where, while, why, provided, despite, etc. Subordinators are usually adjunctive elements (See Adverbial Clause and Types of Adverbs) while coordinators have no grammatical functions.

Complex Subordinators

In the case of complex subordinators, they contain more than one word; they are a group of words. Examples include: in other words, in the same vein, no sooner…than, as if, as soon as, in spite of, etc.

Indicators/Markers of Subordination

In any given sentence, there is a way to identify subordination. Certain linguistic manifestations are pointers to confirming subordination and once you see any of such indices, you can safely confirm that subordination is at work. Let us consider those markers of subordination:

The Presence of a Subordinator

Look at these examples: 

  • Since he could not pay the money, he was incarcerated.
  • If we are all honest, the country will change for the better.
  • Though she qualified, the company did not employ her.
  • It was very clever, however, he did it.
  • They caught the thief where he was trying to board a train.

The Absence of a Finite Verb in a Clause

Examples include:

  • Seeing that we have such a High Priest, let us hold fast our confession.
  • Going through the accounts carefully, I spotted discrepancies.
  • Coming from a long journey, he appeared tired and hungry.
  • His hands became blistered, digging for such a long time.
  • Basking in the euphoria of the victory, the politician declared free lunch for his staff.

Presence of a Wh-Element

These elements include what, where, why, when and how.

Subject-operator Inversion 

This is the inversion of the subject with either the modal auxiliary or non-modal auxiliary verb in the sentence. Examples include:

  • Were it possible for me, I would have completed my studies abroad.
  • Had she known, she would not have left her husband.
  • Could she have been a swimmer, she would have rescued the boy.
  • Were it necessary, they would have paid any amount.
  • Should he have arrived on time, they would not have missed their flight.

The Presence of an Implied Subordinator

As stated in the post on noun clause, there are times that a subordinator would be implied but would not be overtly written. One of the two clauses would still be a subordinate clause while the other would be the main clause. For example:

  • He said we should go home.
  • We agreed it is time to quit the job.
  • They believe they would see the kids again.
  • She admitted it was impossible.
  • He felt we were lying.

The insertion of ‘that’ would make the subordinate clause obvious. That is: 

  • He said that we should go home.
  • We agreed that it is time to quit the job.
  • They believe that they would see the kids again.
  • She admitted that it was impossible.
  • He felt that we were lying.

Having considered the concept of subordination, let us focus on coordination… 

What is Coordination? 

Coordination is a process by which we link two grammatical units that are equal in status together by means of a coordinator. For example:

  • The children ate and went to bed.

The sentence above contains two main clauses but ‘and’ is not part of either of the clauses.

Indicators/Markers of Subordination

There are also markers of coordination as we have it in the case of subordination. The major marker of coordination is:

Presence of Coordinators

There are basically three coordinators in English which we also refer to as coordinating conjunctions. They are:




 (See Semantic Implications of Coordinators)

Look at these three coordinators as used in the sentences below:

  • He could not pay his tuition and pay his rent simultaneously.
  • They caught the thief and handed him over to the police.
  • I have one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. (Patrick Henry)
  • Just add water and stir continuously.
  • Their work was excellent and won several awards.
  • We tried to catch up with them but we could not.
  • The politician won the election but the dictator nullified it.
  • I wish to travel by air but I could not afford the cost.
  • He is poor but he is happy.
  • Katie went to bed early but she did not sleep until midnight.
  • Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death. (Patrick Henry)
  • Do you want a milkshake or you want ice cream?
  • Either you typed the wrong name, or something is wrong with the equipment.
  • You’d better leave or you’ll be late.
  • Should we play tennis or we should go skydiving?

When you observe the structure of the sentences above, they are typically compound sentences because they contain two main clauses but the coordinators are not part of either clause.  When there are three main clauses joined by coordinators in a sentence, we have an instance of a multiple sentence and if a subordinate clause is added, then the sentence becomes a Multiple-complex sentence.

Types of Coordinators

There are two types of these coordinators. They are:

Syndetic Coordinator

This is when two equal grammatical units are linked with an overt coordinator. For instance: 

  • The man believes in the dignity of labour and so is his wife.
  • I have some money but what would it do?
  • Give me some chips or some salad!

Asyndetic Coordinator

We talk about asyndetic coordinator when we link together two equal grammatical units without an overt coordinator. Consider the following examples: 

  • The man lost his wallet; it was really disturbing.
  • She left some funds; what would that do?
  • I’m not afraid – you are.
  • His speeches were long, boring, full of platitudes.


I want sure you have learnt a lot from this post. There is a Part of Speech that gives more insight into the issue of subordination and coordination in English – the Conjunction. Read up the post on it. Coordinators also have Semantic Implications; that is, the way they are structured in sentences determine the type of meaning they convey. Make sure you check out the post on these implications. You can also read up our posts on Phrases in English and the English Clause. Do not forget to share with your friends; the button is just a click away. Send in your comments and questions below and I will definitely attend to them. See you around!

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