Topic sentences / subordinating conjunctions

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Quick Grammar Lesson: (stick with it!) 

Rule 1:
A conjunction is a word that can join two sentences.
I went to the shops. I bought a jacket. = I went to the shops AND I bought a jacket

Rule 2:
Certain conjunctions are known as coordinating conjunctions. They can be identified by the Acronym ‘FANBOYS’ (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So).
Sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction (FANBOY) are known as compound sentences.
‘I watched a film but it was terrible = compound sentence. (‘But’ is a FANBOY)

Rule 3:
The ‘non-FANBOYS’ conjunctions are known as subordinating conjunctions. 
Sentences joined by a subordinating conjunction (Non-FANBOY) are known as complex sentences.
‘I went to the shops because I needed a new jacket.’ 

Rule 4:
Fronting refers simply to moving something to the front of a sentence.
You can ‘front’ a subordinating conjunction, but not a coordinating conjunction.
Because I needed a jacket, I went to the shops (This works!)
But it was terrible, I watched a film (This doesn’t work!)

Lesson Over!


It’s probably fair to say that as teachers, we all strive for our students to understand complex ideas. In order to demonstrate this, students will need to be able to communicate these complex ideas, Without wanting to oversimplify the point, it probably makes sense to instruct, and encourage students to write in complex sentences.

One technique of doing this is to provide topic sentences that begin with a subordinating conjunction (a ‘fronted subordinating conjunction’). So, giving students topic sentences to complete such as:

  • Because Hollywood needs to make money….
  • Without access to sunlight……
  • Although the Cuban Missile Crisis was averted…..

Or describing a painting using the topic sentence Despite the use of dark colours…

It might just be me but I think the phrase…

Unless they utilise complex sentences, students cannot articulate complex ideas’ 

…sounds more scholarly than…

Students cannot articulate complex ideas unless they utilise complex sentences.’