Hypotaxis is one of two ways that complex sentences can be constructed. In hypotactic construction, the main clause of a sentence is followed by one or more subordinate clauses.

The subordinate clauses are also called sub-clauses or dependent clauses because they depend on the main clause to make sense.

Hypotaxis occurs when these subordinate clauses are arranged in a line under the main clause and not grouped together as separate sentences within another sentence structure such as parataxis (see below).

What Is Hypotaxis?

Hypotaxis refers to a more complicated form of syntax in which clauses and phrases are subordinated to each other.

This is also called subordination, and it can help you create different levels of meaning.

A hypotactic sentence starts with an independent clause followed by one or more subordinate clauses:

For example: I went home after I finished my homework. (independent)

The teacher told us to bring our books because we were going on a field trip tomorrow morning. (dependent)

Although there is some overlap between hypotaxis and parataxis, they are not exactly the same thing — paratactic sentences are simple ones that often have no punctuation at all!

Both syntactical styles have their uses, but you should be aware of them so you can use them when appropriate for your audience’s needs.

Hypotaxis is a type of grammatical construction that involves the use of subordinate clauses to express the relationship between ideas.

In contrast to parataxis, which uses coordinate clauses to express ideas in parallel, hypotaxis uses subordination to show the hierarchical relationship between ideas.

For example, the sentence “I went to the store because I needed milk” uses hypotaxis to show the cause-and-effect relationship between the two clauses. The subordinate clause “because I needed milk” explains the reason for the action in the main clause “I went to the store.”

Hypotaxis is commonly found in written and spoken language, and is often used to express complex or nuanced ideas.

In addition to expressing cause-and-effect relationships, hypotaxis can also be used to show temporal, conditional, or contrastive relationships between ideas.

For example, the sentence “If I had enough money, I would buy a new car” uses hypotaxis to express a conditional relationship.

The subordinate clause “if I had enough money” specifies the condition under which the action in the main clause “I would buy a new car” would take place.

Hypotaxis is not limited to written language; it can also be found in spoken language, particularly in more formal or academic contexts.


For example, a university professor might use hypotaxis to explain a complex concept to their students, using subordinate clauses to clarify and expand upon the main idea.

Overall, hypotaxis is a valuable tool for expressing the hierarchical relationship between ideas, and is an essential part of both written and spoken language.

Whether used to express cause-and-effect, temporal, conditional, or contrastive relationships, hypotaxis adds precision and nuance to language, allowing us to convey complex ideas with clarity and precision.

Examples of Hypotaxis In Use

John Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale has an example of hypotaxis in the second stanza:

“O, for a draught of vintage! That hath been/ Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth, / Tasting of Flora and the country green” (1. 11–13). The “draught of vintage” is modified by the clauses in the successive lines.

In William Blake’s poem The Clod and the Pebble, the phrase:

“So sang a little Clod of Clay,/ Trodden with the cattle’s feet” (l. 5–6) is an example of hypotaxis; line 6 modifies the “Clod of Clay” in line 5.

Hypotaxis is a form of syntax that can be found in many languages. It’s the opposite of parataxis, which we’ll discuss next.

A hypotactic structure uses independent clauses and subordinate clauses, but only one clause contains the main idea. The other dependent clauses are used to give more details or explain parts of this sentence. For example:

  • I went to school. My sister went with me because she wanted to see her friends there too.

This has both an independent clause (the first) and a dependent clause (the second). We know that “I went” is the main idea because it’s at the beginning, where most sentences have their subject.

However, since our second independent clause isn’t actually about going anywhere at all — it’s just providing additional information — we call this kind of structure hypotactic because it includes something extra (hypo-) on top of what you’d normally expect from your average sentence.

Hypotaxis And Syntactical Isotaxis

Syntactical isotaxis is the opposite of hypotactic structures. It’s the word for when a sentence has an equal number of words in each part of speech, such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

When an author uses this style of writing, it makes their writing sound more like poetry than prose because there are no clear subjects or predicates.

The term syntactical isotaxis originates from works of linguist Václav Machek, who used it in a study of Czech language.

The word “syntactic” refers to how words are arranged within sentences and “isotaxis” means equal spacing between parts (words).

In other languages that use syntactical isotaxis — such as German and French — the style is called parallelismus: the repetition of phrases in a balanced fashion or parallel structure across several lines or stanzas.

Hypotaxis – Use With Clauses And Phrases

Hypotaxis is a way of relating clauses or phrases to one another in complex sentences.

A hypotactic structure can be found in many major languages such as English, German and French as well as Russian.

An example of this is the following:

  • John is smart. He studies hard.

In this example, the two clauses “John is smart” and “He studies hard” are related by means of subordination (subordinate clause).

The first clause (John is smart) acts as an adverbial modifier giving more information about the second clause (He studies hard).

In other words, the first clause provides additional information about what it means for someone to study hard – they must be smart!

Hypotaxis is a form of syntax that structures sentences into a hierarchical structure.

This means that hypotactic structures can be found in many major languages like English, German, and French as well as languages like Russian.

Hypotaxis – Wrapping Up

The word “hypotaxis” comes from Greek and means “placement below.” The term was first used in linguistics by Václav Machek in a study of Czech language but has since been adopted into English usage as well.

In this article, we’ve covered what hypotaxis is and some examples of how it works, so now let’s look at some other related terms!