I'm working on making a progression using solely functional harmony for my music lessons. At the end of my progression, I have a V-iii-ii-I. Is this at all justified? I ask because (as far as I understand) this progression is essentially D-T-SD-T and I'm wondering if the subdominant can move back to the tonic or if it can only move to the dominant. Thanks so much!

  • 1
    I thought the subdominant chord was the IV chord? Jul 1, 2023 at 12:12
  • 2
    @ToddWilcox The subdominant is the IV chord, but ii, IV, and vi all commonly have a subdominant function. E.g. ii-V-I is a very common progression, where ii is considered to operate as the subdominant.
    – Aaron
    Jul 1, 2023 at 17:16

3 Answers 3


The subdominant can move to the tonic, but this particular progression would be a tricky one because of the possibility of parallel fifths within the iii-ii-i progression. However, it wouldn't be surprising to see something like this in, say, a sequence.

The most common SD to T movement is the IV - I movement in a plagal cadence.


That sub-dominant moves to the tonic at the end of every hymn in church - or it used to when I sung in the choir! As Aaron states, the plagal cadence.

Your ii>I could be written with everything moving parallel, which would contravene certain 'rules', although it does get used a lot in many songs. However, as IV>I, which is probably a more often used (and proper) SD>T, the voicing can be arranged easily so as to not violate them.


Yes, subdominant can lead to tonic. There’s even a name for it, Plagal Cadence. (And Amen to that :-)

ii has a subdominant function, but it isn’t the subdominant. If as well as ‘functional’ you want ‘17th century SATB voice-leading rules’ you'll find it tricky to avoid forbidden parallels. The more I play with A below, the more I think 'well, wouldn't that ii be better as IV, or at least as ii7?' But if you're happy to rejoice in the parallels, with keyboard-style voicing, B is much happier! enter image description here

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