One of the main ways that examiners judge cohesion is through the variety of conjunctions used in an essay. This is particularly true of subordinating conjunctions.

Conjunctions and sentence types have been covered in detail in clauses and complex sentences but this lesson will give a few examples of how subordinating conjunctions (in particular) raise Coherence and Cohesion scores.

What are subordinating conjunctions?

subordinating conjunction is a word or phrase that links a dependent clause to an independent clause. A dependence clause is a part of a sentence that is not complete without another part of a sentence (an independent clause). The example below shows two clauses, one independent, one dependent.

The boy cannot sing well although his mum thinks he can.   

If a person were only to say: “The boy cannot sing well.” this would be a complete sentence.

If a person were only to say: “Although his mum thinks he can.” this would be confusing because it is incomplete.

The subordinating conjunction is although.

The table below shows a list of common subordinating conjunctions and their purpose:

To show causebecause / as* / since / so that / in order to / in order that / due to / as a result of
To show placewhere / wherever 
To show timewhen / whenever / as* / while* / after / before / until / as soon as / as long as / once / now that 
To show concessionalthough / even though / though / despite 
To show comparison or contrastwhereas / in contrast to / just as / while / though
To show conditionif / unless / even if / in case / provided that / when
To add a relative clausewhich / who / whom / where / whose / that

Examiners know that advanced writers use these conjunctions more often, and create more advanced flowing sentences. Read the two example paragraphs below and notice the difference in the quality of sentences when subordinating conjunctions are used well.

Family-run businesses often benefit from the relationships that family members have. Family members give more support in difficult financial times. However, family relationships can deteriorate. Family businesses are more personal. So, the business is more likely to experience problems. 

Family-run businesses often benefit from the relationships that family members have, especially when support is needed during difficult financial times. However, when family relationships deteriorate, the business is more likely to experience problems because the business is more personal. 

Now read the paragraph below which shows a good mix of conjunctive adverbs and subordinating conjunctions:

However, despite these advantages, family-run businesses can also experience major problems when relationships break down. If there are problems within a family, these are often reflected in the business as well. According to legal experts, it is common for family disputes to become court cases that dispute ownership of the business itself. The result is often the dissolution of the business or extremely expensive court settlements. In contrast, corporations are able to deal with emotional disagreements by replacing difficult staff quickly and efficiently.

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