Grammar | Band 7 Clauses 1 Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

​Students often ask “what do I need to do to get a high band for grammar?”. Well, in order to get a band 7 or higher for grammar, you need to accurately use subordinate clauses in both your speaking and writing. If you don’t use complex sentences with subordinate clauses, then your grammar band will be low. Today we are going to cover the basics of subordinate clauses. We will look at:

  • What a subordinate clause is.
  • What a concessive clause is.
  • What a time clause is.
  • What a reason clause is.
  • What a relative clause is.

What is a subordinate clause?

Read the subordinate clauses below.
  1. Which requires certain raw materials.
  2. When all of the family come together at Christmas.
  3. Although American movies are very popular.​
These clauses seem strange, right? You have probably noticed they are not completely formed ideas. They are fragments (parts) which should accompany (be with) more information. We need to know...
  1. What process (requires certain raw materials)?
  2. What happens at Christmas when the family come together?
  3. What is the relevance of American movies?

Let’s take a look at how these questions are answered when we look at the complete sentences. The subordinate clauses are in bold, the main clauses are not.
Main Clause
Subordinate clause

Iron production is a process ​​
which requires certain raw materials
  1. Iron production is a process which requires certain raw materials.
  2. When all of the family come together at Christmas, there is generally a party and lots of gossiping.
  3. Although American movies are very popular, the local movie industry in India is dominant.
A subordinate clause cannot stand alone. It must be used with a main clause.

​If the subordinate clause comes before the main clause, then the two must be separated by a comma. This is an important rule to follow as the examiner will be looking out for accurate punctuation of complex sentences.
Now we know what a subordinate clause is, let’s take a look at some common types that you should definitely try to use in your writing and speaking.

Concessive clauses

A concessive clause is a clause which expresses an idea different to the one in the main clause. Look at the examples below that use 'although', 'even though', 'though' and 'whereas'.
  1. Although the price of pesticide fell, the overall price of food production rose.
  2. The government continues to fund some groups even though they know they do not receive their support.
  3. Though there are many low cost airlines these days, many people still cannot afford to travel overseas.
  4. Whereas the average global temperature is increasing, some areas are actually experiencing cooling and increased rainfall.
The concessive clause is introduced with a concessive conjunction such as although, even though, though, or whereas. Notice the contrast between the two ideas in the sentence. If the concessive clause is before the main clause, then the two are separated by a comma.

Note: Though is considered to be informal and is used only in speaking.

Exercise 1 | Concessive Clauses

People are talking about music, games, hats and films in the first part of the IELTS speaking test. Are the following sentences correct or incorrect? There are 8 sentences.

Time Clauses and Reason clauses

Time and Reason clauses are dependent clauses. These clauses are used to answer questions like When? Or Why?
  • When I was young, it was uncommon for a family to have their own computer. (When was it uncommon? When I was...)
  • Because of the extreme temperature, he had a cold shower. (Why did he do that? Because of...)
  • People bought less in the post-Christmas period since they had spent a lot of money on the festivities. (Why did they spend less money? Since they had spent...)
  • After reading the instructions, I tried to assemble my new desk. (When did you try to assemble the desk? After reading the inst...)
​Let’s move on to relative clauses before practicing this grammar.

Relative Clauses

Who, whom, whose, which, when, where and that are relative pronouns. If a subordinate clause begins with a relative pronoun, then it is a relative clause. Relative clauses act like adjectives – they describe a noun. There are two kinds of relative clauses.

1. Defining Relative Clauses

​Defining relative clauses define what something is. They give essential information about nouns. Defining relative clauses always follow the noun they describe. Look at these examples.

That is the place where I work.
The man who sold me the vegetables was very friendly.

Exercise 2 | Relative Clauses

​Choose the correct relative pronoun (who, whose, which, where, when) by dragging the pronouns into the gaps.
​Defining relative clauses are great for paraphrasing (explaining what something is). Doing this effectively needs to be done to get a higher band for lexical resource (LRA) in speaking. If you can explain what something is, even if you don’t know the English word for it, the examiner will notice that the gaps in your vocabulary don’t stop you from communicating effectively. See the example below.
This is a day when people try to reduce their carbon footprint by not using motor vehicles or electricity. (The candidate is talking about Earth Day.)
To practice this skill, think of some traditional events, games, clothing or days in your culture for which there is no English word. Describe these traditional things using defining relative clauses. Traditional culture is a common IELTS speaking topic.
2. Non-Defining Relative Clauses
These clauses are introduced by a relative pronoun and they add non-essential information about a noun. Look at these examples.

  1. His last painting, which was painted in Amsterdam, sold for over $5 million dollars.
  2. I went to the Louvre in Paris, which I really enjoyed.

Notice how the non-defining relative clause and the main clause are separated by commas.

Final Exercise | Subordinate Clauses

People are talking about motor vehicles. Below are some complex sentences. Match the two halves of the sentences together by dragging the second half of each sentence beneath the first half. Mobile users should view the exercise horizontally and in full-screen.

​Next time you’re speaking or writing try and use plenty of subordinate clauses to make your writing more interesting and more complex. Doing this should push up your band score for grammatical range and accuracy. When you’re reading, look at the grammar of the sentences and see if you can spot the different types of clauses we have studied today.