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Rewriting Subordinate Clauses as Main  and Main as Subordinate
From the Writing of Sixth Graders
Analysis Key

     Remember that the objective of this exercise is to increase the flexibility of students' writing. Even though two main clauses may sound worse than a subordinate clause, it is important that students be able to change a subordinate clause into a main one. The versions given below suggest some of the possibilities. Some students will rewrite the sentences in other interesting ways. In the (b) notes below, I have suggested some of them and noted the constructions that would be used. If students use these, you can tell them that they have written interesting (correct) sentences, and even, if you wish, which constructions they have used, but try to make sure that students also understand how to rewrite the originals as either two main clauses or a main clause with compound finite verbs.

A. Subordinate to Main

     A General Observation: Changing a subordinate clause into a main clause reduces the length of main clauses. (The average length of main clauses is a general measure of syntactic maturity. See KISS Level 6.5 Statistical Stylistics.) In some cases, however, the version with main clauses is better because it gives both clauses equal emphasis.

1. When I turned around, I almost wrecked the four-wheeler.

a. I turned around, and I almost wrecked the four-wheeler.
    I turned around and almost wrecked the four-wheeler.

b. Turning around, I almost wrecked the four-wheeler. [Verbal that puts emphasis on "almost wrecked"]
    I turned around, almost wrecking the four-wheeler. [Verbal that puts emphasis on "I turned around"]

2. There are lots of floors and halls that all look the same.
a. There are lots of floors and halls. They all look the same. [Making "They all looks the same" a separate main clause gives it more emphasis (which may, or may not, be desirable.]
3. My brother, who is 15 years old, is in high school.
a. My brother is 15 years old. He's in high school.
    My brother is 15 years old and in high school.

b. My fifteen-year-old brother is in high school. [Reducimg "13 years old" de-emphasizes it.]

4. After I broke my arm and shoulder, I didn't run for a week.
a. I broke my arm and shoulder. I didn't run for a week.
    I broke my arm and shoulder and didn't run for a week.

b. Having broken my arm and shoulder, I didn't run for a week. [This reduces the first clause to a gerundive that modifies "I." ]

5. The fund raiser, which worked well, had raised 1,200,396 dollars.
a. The fund raiser worked well. It had raised 1,200,396 dollars.
    The fund raiser had worked well and raised 1,200,396 dollars.
    The fund raiser worked well -- it had raised 1,200,396 dollars. [Whereas the first two versions simply state two facts, the third version relates them by indicating that the second main clause gives details (an example) on how it worked well.]

b. The fund raiser, having worked well, had raised 1,200,396 dollars. [Reducing either of the finite verbs to a verbal (gerundive) de-emphasizes that clause and shifts focus to the other one.]


B. Main to Subordinate

     A General Observation: Subordinating main clauses in other main clauses obviously increases the length of the remaining main clauses. It also de-emphasizes the ideas put in the subordinate clauses. Finally, the subordinating conjunctions used to do this reflect different logical connections among the expressed ideas.

1. We were in the hospital, and my mother and father said "Stick in there."

a. When [while] we were in the hospital, my mother and father said "Stick in there." [Subordinates "we were in the hospital," thereby putting more focus on "mother and father said."]

b. We were in the hospital, when my mother and father said "Stick in there."

2. I know a lot of adults. They enjoy the show also.
I know a lot of adults who enjoy the show also. [Reduces "They enjoy the show also" to an adjectival clause.]
3. They climbed out on the roof, and George screamed.
After they climbed out on the roof, George screamed. [Reduces "They climbed out on the roof" to an adverbial clause of time.]
4. She had just come from her doctor's. There she found out she had cancer.
She had just come from her doctor's, where she found out she had cancer. [Reduces "she found out" to an adjectival clause, which de-emphasizes it. Note that a tighter version of this would be something like "At her doctor's she had just found out she had cancer."]
5. I was taking the hose over to the wheelbarrow and my cousin was walking over and tripped on the hose and hit her head on the wheelbarrow.
a. While I was taking the hose over to the wheelbarrow, my cousin was walking over and tripped on the hose and hit her head on the wheelbarrow. [De-emphasizes what is in the "While" clause and establishes a logical connection of time.]

b. I was taking the hose over to the wheelbarrow, when my cousin was walking over and tripped on the hose and hit her head on the wheelbarrow. [De-emphasizes what is in the "when" clause and establishes a logical connection of time.]

c. Because I was taking the hose over to the wheelbarrow, my cousin, who was walking over, tripped on the hose and hit her head on the wheelbarrow. [This version establishes a cause/effect relationship between his moving the hose and his cousin's tripping and hitting her head. Note that this version also subordinates "who was walking over," thereby indicating that the cousin's walking over was not a result of his moving the hose.]