Subordination, Writing, and the TOEFL iBT: Creating the Right Emphasis

Combine sentences with the appropriate emphasis!
Combine sentences with the appropriate emphasis!

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Knowing the fundamentals of English grammar is a noble feat, but you will also need to know when to use a particular grammar structure. For example, even though you understand how to form adjective clauses, you should not use them excessively in academic writing. In fact, many college writing handbooks encourage writers to reduce adjective clauses whenever possible.

Adjective, noun, and adverb clauses are subordinate ideas in relation to the independent clause. Now you may be thinking, “What does that mean in plain English?” In other words, writers choose to use adjective, noun, and adverb clauses when they see those ideas as support ideas to the main idea. For example, in the sentence, “Although the computer was damaged, it still works.” the main part is “it still works.” The support idea is “although the computer was damaged.” In this case, the writer considers the functionality of the computer as being more important than its being damaged.

What does this mean to you and the TOEFL iBT? First, you should be sure that you combine shorter sentences with other ones so that you do not exclusively use basic grammar accurately. Second, when you choose to combine sentences, you will need to decide whether to coordinate or subordinate. If you choose to coordinate, you will use a coordinating conjunction such as or, and, but, yet, for, and so. And in so doing, you will create a compound sentence with two equally important independent clauses.

If you choose to subordinate one of the sentences, you will need to choose a subordinating conjunction such as which, that, because, who, and so on. And in so doing, you will create a complex sentence with a dependent and independent clause. When creating complex sentences, make sure that you send the appropriate emphasis.

For example, consider the following two sentences: John’s father had an accident. He did not die from his injuries.Now answer the following question: “Which idea is most important? The accident or not dying?” For many, “not dying” represents the most important idea. Therefore, it is logical to subordinate the first sentence. Therefore, you might have a sentence such as the following:

Although John’s father had an accident, he did not die from his injuries.However, it is odd to say: John’s father had an accident although he did not die from his injuries. But if you choose to say it that way, you are emphasizing to the writer that the accident is more important than the father’s not dying. The next time you combine two sentences, ask yourself, “What emphasis am I sending to my reader? And, is this the message that I intended to send?”

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1 thought on “Subordination, Writing, and the TOEFL iBT: Creating the Right Emphasis”

  1. Pingback: Avoid TOEFL Templates - Better TOEFL Scores Blog

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