The KISS Grammar Workbooks  Level Three Instructional Material
     
Rewriting 
Subordinate Clauses as Main
or Main as Subordinate
Dante Gabriel 
Rossetti's
(1828-1882)
A Sea Spell
1877 
 
      In any text, some ideas are more important than others. In an essay, for example, the main idea is the thesis, normally a single sentence located near the beginning of the essay. Within the essay itself, topic sentences state the main ideas of paragraphs. They function to connect the supporting sentences within paragraphs to the main idea stated in the thesis. The supporting sentences themselves (the sentences within the paragraphs) are, of course, important, but they are subordinate to the topic sentences, which are subordinate to the thesis. This hierarchy of ideas continues within the structure of the sentences. The main idea in a sentence is normally in, or as close as possible to, the main S/V/C pattern.
     Consider the following sentence:
a. Eddie refused to stop crying, | and he insisted on going home. |
It presents basically two ideas. Because both ideas are in main clauses, the sentence suggests that both ideas are equally important. We can rewrite this sentence, however, to make either of the main clauses subordinate. To do that, we need to 
1. delete the coordinating conjunction (in this case, "and"), 
2. replace the less meaningful subject with a subordinating conjunction that can also function as a subject (in this case, "who"), and
3. make sure that the subordinate clause is positioned in the sentence so that it will clearly chunk to the word it modifies.
b. Eddie, [who refused to stop crying], insisted on going home. |
c. Eddie, [who insisted on going home], refused to stop crying. |
Out of context, this may not seem to make a big difference, but in context, it has a major effect. Suppose, for example, that the sentences the follow this one describe Eddie's insistence on going home. In that case, version (a) would be much better for establishing the focus for the reader. Good writers have learned (often unconsciously) how to manipulate sentence structure so that more important ideas occupy the more important positions within the structure of sentences. 
     Within the KISS Approach, we will be looking at this idea of the relative importance of ideas and their position within a sentence from several different perspectives. Here, our primary objectives are to introduce you to the question, and to show you how to change main clauses into subordinate, or subordinate into main.
     In our first example, both main clauses have the same meaningful subject. Before we look at other examples, note that that example could have been written as one main clause with compound verbs -- Eddie refused to stop crying and insisted on going home. This means that sentences that have compound verbs can be rewritten to make one (or more) of the compound verbs a subordinate clause -- as long as at least one finite verb remains for the main clause. Similarly, sentences with subordinate clauses -- such as example (c) -- can be rewritten to put all the finite verbs in main clauses -- as in example (a). For total control of the focus in your writing, you need to be able to move in either direction -- from main to subordinate or from subordinate to main.
     Having looked at the principles involved, we can examine a few additional examples. In (a), both main clauses shared the same meaningful subject, but often you can subordinate a clause that does not share the same subject:
d. He decided to ask Sarah. | Sarah was a good friend of his sister. |
e. He decided to ask Sarah, [who was a good friend of his sister]. |
In general, any time the subject of a clause meaningfully appears (as a noun or pronoun) in another sentence, you can subordinate the clause by following the three steps noted above.
     Sometimes, however, you will want to use a different type of subordinating conjunction:
f. He decided to ask Sarah, [because she  was a good friend of his sister]. |
g. He decided to ask Sarah, [even though she  was a good friend of his sister]. |
In these versions, two very different logical connections are made between the basic ideas.