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Two Kinds of Connectors

Besides the uses already described, coordination and subordination are two basic ways of linking clauses. Sometimes we don’t have much choice about how to make the connection, but often, if we see the options, we do.

These trees lose their leaves every winter, but they don’t die.

The clauses in the example above are joined by coordination, but could as easily have been joined by subordination.

Although these trees lose their leaves every winter, they don’t die.

Now, the first clause is subordinate to the second. The two words that make the difference are called conjunctions, or joining words. " But" belongs to a group of conjunctions that coordinate. " Although" belongs to a group that subordinates. Learning to recognise these two groups of conjunctions will not only help you with your sentence structure, but also with your punctuation.

Coordinating Conjunctions

Not too much needs to be said about them. They are few in number: and, or, but, for, nor, yet, so, and they can always be found at the point where the two coordinate structures are joined together, as in the example above.

Subordinating Conjunctions

These are used to subordinate one clause to another. They are placed at the beginning of the clause you want to subordinate, which may or may not be where the two clauses actually meet on the page. Some common subordinating conjunctions are if, although, as, when, because, since, though, when, whenever, after, unless, while, whereas, even though. When one of these words is attached to the beginning of an independent clause, that clause is weakened. It becomes dependent. It can no longer stand alone as a complete sentence.

Independent clause (complete sentence):

The streets were covered with snow.

Dependent clause (fragment):

Because the streets were covered with snow.

Dependent clause attached to a base clause (complete sentence):

Because the streets were covered with snow, we could ski to school.

4.8. Underline the base clause in each of the following sentences. Boldface the subordinating conjunction.

Example: Because Lisa was my best friend, I let her borrow my dress for the party.

a. Alan scores a point whenever we need one.

b. Since we changed the air cleaner, we’ve been getting better mileage.

c. They cancelled the picnic because it was raining.

d. When I got home, my landlord was there waiting.

e. Stand here if you want to get wet.

f. Whenever the ponds freeze, I sharpen my skates.

4.9. Join the following pairs of sentences by using coordination and then by using subordination.

a. My new watch was very expensive. It doesn’t work.

b. We were new in town. Everyone made us feel welcome.

c. I studied long and hard. I passed the course.

d. These tires are bald. You should replace them.

e. I get home from class. I collapse on the couch.

4.10. Rewrite the sentences you did for 4.9. This time use coordination where you used subordination before and vice-versa. Which sentences are improved by the change? Which would be better left alone? Why?

4.11. Edit the following sentences for subject/verb agreement


a. The gloves I got for Christmas is too small.

b. My knee look like it is starting to heal.

c. Breakfast and lunch always tastes great.

d. Opening the cans spoil the meat.

e. Our team don’t get discouraged when we lose.

f. The bus always get me here on time.

g. The corner and the edge shows the rust first.

h. These bandages works great.

i. Neither the judge nor the jury are responsible for this.

j. Our staff and equipment is ready to serve you.


4.12. Read the following sentences and tell whether the subject and verb agree in number. Be prepared to explain and justify your answer.

a. A big tree with all the trimmings make the holidays special.

b. Anyone wearing muddy boots are to stand over there.

c. The houses by the river are the oldest.

d. The old man in the corner booth looks tired.

e. Our selection of tomatoes top them all.

f. At the foot of the dunes a small boy plays by the shore.

g. Flags of many nations flutters in the chilly breeze.

h. The shocks in my Mustang is shot.

i. The tie with the orange stripes looks bold.

j. Too many onions spoils the stew.


Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

Just as subjects and verbs must agree, pronouns must agree with their antecedents. A pronoun is a word that substitutes for a previously mentioned noun. If that noun (called the antecedent) is plural, the pronoun standing-in for it must also be plural. If the antecedent is singular, so must the pronoun be.


Change: My club is having a bake sale. These should help our finances.

to: My club is having a bake sale. This should help our finances.

In the first example, " these" refers back to the antecedent " bake sale, " but because " these" is plural and its antecedent is singular, an agreement problem results. Making both pronoun and antecedent singular solves the problem.

The person/number chart below will help you determine whether a pronoun is singular or plural.

Person/Number Chart

  Singular Plural
1st person I, me we, us
2nd person you you
3rd person* he; him; she; her; it; this; that; or any noun representing ONE person, place, or thing, as: a table. they; them; these; those; or any noun representing MORE THAN ONE person, place, or thing, as: some tables.


4.13. Edit the following sentences for pronoun/antecedent agreement.

a. If the people want unsafe cars, they will get it.

b. When a person needs advice, they can go to a psychologist.

(HINT : Make the antecedent plural to avoid gender problems.)

c. After the streets had been swept, it looked very clean.

d. I don’t like tacos. It’s too spicy.

e. The director organises the play. They make sure everyone knows what to do.

f. Some students pick this up quickly. This person can go on to the next section.

g. Good friends, food, and a roof over your head – this is the only necessities.

h. Playing a musical instrument is a valuable experience for a child. They teach them many important things.


Pronoun Reference

Faulty pronoun reference means the antecedent of your pronoun is not totally and immediately clear. There is no single rule for making pronoun reference clear in all cases. Most often a reader will try to connect the pronoun with the subject of a previous clause or sentence:

When Andre cut his finger, he screamed out in pain.

But not always, sometimes the reader will connect it with the closest noun:

When Andre cut his finger, it started to bleed.

In both cases the meaning is clear, and so there is no problem.

Problems occur, though, when two words compete as antecedents and the meaning blurs:

Finally, he wrapped his finger in a bandage, and it stopped bleeding.

Or when the antecedent is not named explicitly:

The danger of creosote build-up has not been properly publicised by the makers of wood burning stoves. This should be looked into thoroughly.

Or when a pronoun seems to refer back to a single word but is intended to refer to a whole clause:

My brother caught my cold which made me feel bad.

Because " which" seems to refer to both " cold" and the entire base clause, the meaning is slightly out of focus.

Careful writers keep the meaning focused by making pronoun/antecedent relationships totally and immediately clear. It isn’t enough to say readers who want to understand your meaning will if they work hard enough. The reader should connect your pronoun with its antecedent at once.

To make the reference clear you could change the wording slightly:

The danger of creosote build-up has not been properly publicized by the makers of wood burning stoves. This lack of publicity should be looked into thoroughly.

You may want to re-word the entire sentence and eliminate the pronoun:

I felt bad that my brother caught my cold.

First, notice the problem, and having seen it, eliminate any ambiguity.



4.14. Edit the following sentences for clear pronoun reference.

a. Whenever the ladies made gingerbread men for the children, they looked delighted.

b. Miss Waldman said if I worked hard I could still get an A or a B, but it didn’t happen.

c. The sun was hot, and although the water was polluted, it made me want to dive in anyhow.

d. The faster I walked, the more water spilled out of the bucket, and it became a real nuisance.


Shift in Tense

The tense of your verb tells when events are taking place – whether in the past, the present, or the future. Early in your writing process, establish a " base tense" for your paper, and shift away from it only for good reason. If you’re writing about past events, use the past tense as your base tense. If you’re writing about the present or the future, build around one of those tenses.


Change: We went into Bruno’s and ordered a pizza. The waitress comes over and brings us our drinks. I can see she’s going to spill one.

to: We went into Bruno’s and ordered a pizza. As the waitress came back with our drinks, I could see she was going to spill one.


The first example, perhaps effective in casual conversation, isn’t precise enough for writing. We can’t tell what happened when. The second version locates the experience in the past. Of course when logic insists you change tense, as in the following example, you should.

During high school I lived with my parents, but now I live with a close friend. Someday I will have a family of my own.

4.15. Edit the following paragraph for consistency in tense:

…The first thing I hear was the terrible scream of somebody’s voice blending into the squeal of rubber as we come hurtling down on the Honda from behind. It’s my little sister, both hands pressed to the sides of her head, while my Dad tried to push the brakes through the floor. Then suddenly we’re going sideways, and I see a big church come floating across the windshield. Then I knew we’ll crash…


Shift in Person

Here again, the goal is to be clear and consistent. This time, however, the aim is to establish a steady, reliable point of view. Doing so helps the reader understand where the two of you stand in relation to the subject, and generally helps build a strong writer/reader relationship.


Change: Helga is my best friend. She won’t let a person down. You can always count on her to be there when you need help.

to: Helga is my best friend. She won’t let me down. I can always count on her to be there when I need help.


The writer is probably talking about her own relationship with Helga, not the reader’s. Keeping point of view consistent in all three sentences makes that clear.

For our purposes, the main points of view from which to choose correspond to the persons on the Person/Number Chart. Thus, writing based on the first person singular point of view uses " I" and " me" as its foundation, while writing based on the third person plural would use " they" and " them."

First person singular – This point of view is often effective for informal writing, especially for writing about your personal interests and experiences. It draws attention to the writer, which may or may not be a good thing.

I have always enjoyed crocheting for the relaxation it provides me.

First person plural – Slightly more formal than first person singular, this point of view can convey a sense that you and the reader are partners. It takes emphasis away from the writer as an individual and places it on whatever group is designated by " we."

When we look closely at last month’s sales figures, we can see what the future holds for our company.

Second person singular or plural – Used carefully, this point of view can make readers feel you are speaking directly to them, are in a sense looking directly at them. Sometimes, however, the second person is blurred into a weak or ineffective substitute for another, more appropriate point of view. Like first person singular, it is generally most effective in personal and informal writing.

strong: You can’t imagine how much Helen enjoyed talking with you the other day.

weak: You had to be willing to give a hundred percent whenever you went out on the floor or Coach Bavasi would bench you.

Third person singular and plural – These points of view distance you from your subject and your reader. They make your writing less personal and more formal. They are used for much academic, technical, and scientific writing where tradition or the subject demands an air of distance and objectivity.

A person who violates any of the following laws can expect to receive prompt and immediate punishment. (third person singular)

Students who wish to graduate in June should have their transcripts reviewed by their advisors. (third person plural)

Note: Choosing a dominant point of view doesn’t mean you’ve limited yourself to a single set of pronouns for your whole paper, only that departures from the dominant point of view should be logical and effective.

I hope you told them we would be late.

4.16. Rewrite the following paragraph twice, each time from a different point of view.


At the entrance of the canyon you could see the vegetation change radically. What struck you most was the sparse, stunted growth of plants otherwise similar to those you had seen a few miles back where the river, calmer and wider, took you through a lush, open area covered with huge trees and some of the longest grasses you had ever seen.


Misrelated Modifier

All modifiers should connect clearly and immediately with the words you want them to modify. The reader shouldn’t have to guess what you’re trying to say.


Change: Louisa saw some strange mushrooms playing in the park.

to: While playing in the park, Louisa saw some strange mushrooms.


Probably it wasn’t the mushrooms but Louisa playing in the park. By placing the modifying phrase right next to the word it modifies, we eliminate the confusion. Sometimes careless modifier placement can create several possible meanings.


Change: All afternoon I reminisced about friends I had known with my sister.

to: All afternoon I reminisced with my sister about friends I had known.

or: All afternoon I reminisced about friends my sister and I had known.

or: All afternoon my sister and I reminisced about friends we had known.


In the first example " with my sister" is confusing because it could modify either " reminisced" or " had known" or both. The writer has a responsibility to make such relationships clear.

4.17. Edit the following sentences for clarity of modification:

a. Rounding the corner too quickly, a light post was sheared-off by the school bus.

b. By not doing my assignments, the course was flunked.

c. After considering all the evidence, the defendant was convicted by a jury of his peers.

d. I found a ripe apple on the counter, which I ate.

e. We have harder lessons for advanced students with difficult problems.

f. I saw him break the window drinking in the park.


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