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Conjunctions

An overview of coordinating, correlative, and subordinating conjunctions.
by

Mark Messer

on 15 April 2014

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Transcript of Conjunctions

Conjunctions
Coordinating
Correlative
Subordinating
What are conjunctions? What do they do?
What are the three different types of conjunctions?
Where do they go?
Coordinating
Correlative
Subordinating
Conjunctions are words or phrases that connect other words, phrases, and clauses to each other. They also show the relationship between those words, phrases, and clauses. For example, the conjunction "and" can be used to connect "cheese" and "cake," both nouns.
In the sentence, "I like cheese
and
cake," the conjunction adds two nouns together, so "and" is a conjunction of addition.
If you take it out, the sentence becomes "I like cheese cake." Now, cheese and cake are not two things I like, cheese is a kind of cake that I like.
There are three kinds of conjunctions: coordinating, correlative, and subordinating. All three types are used to connect ANY two or more grammatically equal things, for example nouns to nouns, adjectives to adjectives, prepositional phrases to prepositional phrases . . . .
In the example above, the two things connected are both nouns, but even things as large as sentences can be connected with conjunctions ("I like baking cookies,
and
Carl likes eating them.") Let's look at the different types of conjunctions one at a time.
There are seven, only seven, coordinating conjunctions:
for
,
and
,
nor
,
but
,
or
,
yet
, &
so
. Some people remember them by their first initials, f-a-n-b-o-y-s spells "fanboys." Though they are easy to remember that way, we won't study them in that order. We'll group conjunctions according to meaning.
(What about conjunctive adverbs?)
For: a conjunction of reason
As a conjunction, the word "for" means "since," or "because." Let's look at an example.
"Kyle spoke to Lucy softly,
for
he loved her very much."
Why did he speak to her softly? for he loved her very much.
[note: Although "for" can be used as a conjunction, it is usually used as a preposition with many different meanings including "because."
"I came here for lunch." Why did I come here? for lunch
Most people know about this way of using the word "for," but they don't know that it can be a conjunction.]
So: another conjunction of reason
As a conjunction, "so" means something like "because of that." Let's look at an example.
"Kyle loved Lucy very much,
so
he spoke softly to her."
Compare this to the example with "for."
"Kyle spoke to Lucy softly,
for
he loved her very much."
The meaningful connection between the ideas is the same, but the grammars are different. The word "for" goes before the reason or cause (love), but the word "so" goes before the result or effect (spoke softly). This is very important to notice.
[note: although "so" is often used as a conjunction, it can also be used as an adverb (like "She is so angry!") or interjection (like "hey," "um.")
"So, what do you want to do tonight?"
And: a conjunction of addition
The conjunction "and" is used to add two or more things together. Let's look at an example.
"The dog is mean, noisy,
and
smelly."
[note: Unlike "for" and "so," "and" is only used as a conjunction. ]
Or: a conjunction of alternative
The conjunction "or" is used when you have a choice to make between two or more equal things.
Let's look at an example.
"We can order pizza, chicken,
or
pasta."
We can choose one of these things.
[note: like "and," "or" is only used as a conjunction.]
Nor: a conjunction of alternative
As a conjunction, "nor" basically means "also not." For this reason, there should also be a word like "not" or "never" earlier in the sentence. Let's look at two examples.
"David is not angry,
nor
am I."
"Bonnie should never speak to me,
nor
should Bill."
Notice in both of these examples, after the word "nor," the subject-verb order is unusual. Compare it to the positive example: "Bonnie should speak to me,
or
Bill should."
[note: when it is used with "neither," (neither . . . nor . . . ), we call it a correlative conjunction.]
But: a conjunction of contrast
As a conjunction, "but" shows a strong difference between one thing and another thing or someone's thoughts, feelings, expectations, about it.
Let's look at a couple examples.
"She was angry
but
kind."
(The contrast is between how she felt and how she acted.)
"He had the money,
but
he wouldn't pay"
(The contrast is between a condition and an action [or lack of action].)
[note: the word "but" has a few different meanings as a conjunction, and it can also be a preposition, an adverb, or sometimes a noun.]
Yet: a conjunction of contrast
The conjunction "yet" shows contrast, like "but."
Let's look at an example.
"She was angry
yet
kind." (This is the same use as "but.")
"He had the money,
yet
he wouldn't pay." (The same again.)
[note: the word yet is a conjunction, but it is much more common to see it used as an adverb in a sentence like "She isn't awake yet" or with another meaning.
There is no cute word like "fanboys" to help you remember correlative conjunctions. Correlative conjunctions are pairs of words or pairs of phrases which connect grammatically equal things. We will also study them according to what they mean.
Either . . . or . . . : a conjunction of alternative
Though "or" can be used to present two or more choices, "either . . . or" is used to present only two choices.
"I would like
either
beef
or
chicken for dinner."
"
Either
you finish your homework,
or
you won't get any dessert."
In the first example, two nouns are connected, but in the second example, two clauses are connected.
Neither . . . nor . . .: a conjunction of alternative
Like "nor," "neither . . . nor . . . " tells us about what isn't. Let's look at an example.
"I cook with
neither
salt
nor
pepper" means something like "I don't cook with salt, and I don't cook with pepper." In the previous example, it connects two nouns, salt and pepper.
Whether . . . or . . .: a conjunction of alternative [it also has a sense of uncertainty, like "if"]
"Whether . . . or . . ." is used in two different ways.
Let's look at a conversation which shows an example of both.
John: "I can't decide
whether
to go to the movies
or
to stay home."
(Here, John cannot decide between two choices.)
Bob: "
Whether
you go to the movies,
or
you stay home, I'm going to the movies."
(Here, Bob is saying that the choice John hasn't made yet will not change what Bob does.)
Both . . . and . . . : a conjunction of addition
This conjunction puts two things together.
"Ben is both a hunter and a fisherman."
(This sounds normal. A person who hunts often fishes also.)
Also, it can tell us that those things usually don't go together.
"He is
both
a boss
and
a true friend."
(Though people are often friendly with their bosses, their bosses are usually not true friends.)
"The song is popular with
both
young
and
old people."
(It is rare to find music that people of all ages like.)
Not only . . . but also . . . : a conjunction of addition
This conjunction always connects two things which are usually not together.
"Tim is
not only
an auto mechanic,
but also
a nurse."
(Usually, one person does not fix both cars and sick people.)
Though there are only seven coordinating conjunctions and five correlative conjunctions, you can use them to connect many kinds of words, phrases, and clauses. Subordinating conjunctions are different. There are many more of them, but they are used in only one way, to connect independent clauses. An independent clause includes at least a subject and a verb and makes sense as a sentence by itself. For example, "I woke up." That makes sense by itself.
A subordinating conjunction connects one independent clause to another independent clause, but it makes one of them a dependent clause, a clause which cannot be a sentence by itself (and which is "lower" or subordinate).
"I went to school" and "I woke up" are two independent clauses. If we use the subordinating conjunction "after" to connect them, one of them stays independent, but the other one becomes dependent. Our new sentence now has two pieces:
"I went to school" (the independent clause/main idea)
and
"
after
I woke up." (the dependent clause/subordinate)
"I went to school after I woke up." = "After I woke up, I went to school."
Here is a list of some of the most common subordinating conjunctions. Keep in mind that some of them can be used not only as subordinating conjunctions, but can also as other parts of speech (adverbs, prepositions, . . .).
Think about what each one means in front of an independent clause.
after
although
as
as if
as long as
as much as
as soon as
as though
because
before
even if
even though
how
if
if only
inasmuch as
in order that
now that
once
provided that
rather than
since
so that
than
that
though
till
unless
until
when
whenever
where
whereas
wherever
while
Some coordinating conjunctions can join lots of things, but others can't join as many. Look at the examples below to see what they can connect and how they fit in a sentence. Remember to pay attention to the punctuation!
The conjunctions "and" and "or" can connect many equal words. Though they have different meanings, they both work in the same situations, so they are presented here together. Where you see
and/or
, you can use either the word "and" or the word "or."
As with any list, if there are three or more items, use a comma after each item except the last. Some people don't think a comma is needed before "and," but this "Oxford comma" makes good sense. Look it up or ask your teacher if you want to know why.
nouns/pronouns: "John
and/or
I" "Bob, Mark,
and/or
him"
verbs: "ate
and/or
drank" "ate, drank,
and/or
slept"
adjectives: "kind
and/or
gentle" "kind, gentle,
and/or
handsome"
adverbs: "slowly
and/or
carefully" "slowly, quietly,
and/or
carefully"
prepositions: "by
and/or
for (the people)"

"of, by,
and/or
for (the people)"
[note: the only parts of speech not joined by this conjunction are conjunctions and interjections.]
If "and" and "or"can connect single words, then each can also connect those words with the parts that go with them. Let's look.
nouns with adjective phrases:
"the mayor of Ellsworth
and/or
the man driving the car"
nouns with adjective clauses:
"the boy who took my hat
and/or
the girl who gave it back"
verbs with objects:
"bought an apple
and/or
sold it"
verbs with adverbs:
"spoke quickly
and/or
smiled weakly"
adjectives with adverbs of degree:
"very happy
and/or
very smart"
"running around
and/or
singing a song, (She . . .)"
adjective clauses:
"which you bought
and/or
which I love"
adverbs with adverbs of degree:
"very early
and/or
very well"
adverb clauses (a.k.a. dependent/subordinate clauses!):
"after it's ready
and/or
when I can pick it up"
prepositional phrases:
"in the box
and/or
on the floor" "after lunch
and/or
after supper"
[note: pronoun phrases are not included here because they are very rare.]
Because the coordinating conjunction "nor" needs a negative word, like "not" or "never," it is usually used in an independent clause. However, the correlative conjunction "neither . . . nor . . ." can be used with single words, like nouns.
clause with not/nor:
"He won't support the plan,
nor
will she support it."
Did you notice the unusual word order after "nor"?
If we use "and," we write "
and
she won't support it," but with "nor," we write "
nor
will she support it." The subject comes after "will" just like a question.
Because both clauses are very similar, we can reduce the second clause by leaving off everything after the subject.
" . . .
nor
will she support it." = " . . .
nor
will she."
clause with never/nor:
"John has never visited me,
nor
has Bob (visited me)."
clause with nothing/nor:
"He has nothing to fear,
nor
do you (have anything to fear)."
clause with no/nor:
"Bill has no morals,
nor
does Tom."
The conjunctions "but" and "yet" can connect many words. They have basically the same meaning, and they can be used in almost all the same situations, so they are presented here together. Where you see
but/yet
, you can use either the word "but" or the word "yet.
"

Where you see only the word "but," the word "yet" cannot be used.
[Observation: Why is the word "not" needed some of the time? Notice that the two adjectives (angry/kind) and two adverbs (quickly/quietly) have contrasting meanings, but the subject nouns (John/Jane) do not show clear contrast by themselves. My educated guess is that "not" is needed whenever there isn't clear contrast from the meanings of the words themselves.

adjectives: "(She was) angry
but/yet
kind."
adverbs: "Frank walked quickly
but/yet
quietly."
nouns:"Not John
but
Jane lent me $10."
independent clauses:
"He had the money,
but/yet
he wouldn't pay."
If "but" or "yet" can connect single words with some help from "not," then it can also connect those words with the parts that go with them. Let's look.
nouns with adjective phrases:
"not the mayor of Ellsworth
but
the man driving the car"
nouns with adjective clauses:
"not the boy who took my hat
but
the girl who gave it back"
verbs with objects:
"(She did) not eat the apple
but/yet
threw it away"
verbs with adverbs:
"spoke quickly
but/yet
smiled sincerely
adjectives with adverbs of degree:
"very happy
but/yet
very foolish"
"running around
but/yet
speaking calmly, (She . . .)"
adjective clauses: "which you picked out,
but/yet
which I love"
adverbs with adverbs of degree:
"very quickly
but/yet
very well"
adverb clauses (a.k.a. dependent/subordinate clauses!):
"after it's ready,
but/yet
when I can pick it up"
prepositional phrases:
"in the box
but/yet
on the floor"
"after lunch
but/yet
after supper"
[note: pronoun phrases are not included here because they are very rare.]
The conjunctions "for" and "so" cannot connect words. They are used to connect independent clauses. Though they have basically the same meaning, their grammar is quite different. For that reason, they will be presented together in pairs of examples.

"Kyle spoke to Lucy softly,
for
he loved her very much."
"Kyle loved Lucy very much,
so
he spoke to her softly."
Which clause is the reason/cause? the clause about love
Which clause is the action/effect? the clause about speaking

Can we switch the clauses with these examples?
"
For
he loved her so much, Kyle spoke to Lucy softly."

Does this sound okay? Not really. It sounds okay in the original order with the conjunction in the middle. If you want to put the clauses in this order, you should change the conjunction to a word like "because" or "as."
What about the second example?
"
So
he spoke to her softly, Kyle loved Lucy very much."
Does this sound okay? Not really.
However, there are some sentences made with "so" that sound good either way, like this one.

"Bob left work early,
so
he could catch his flight."
"
So
he could catch his flight, Bob left work early."

Why do these sound good either way? Perhaps it is because of the modal "could."

If we get rid of the modal, does it sound okay with "so" first?
"
So
he caught his flight, Bob left work early
.
"

It could be quite difficult to figure out rules for this interesting observation, so let's just end by saying that sometimes the conjunction "so" sounds okay at the beginning, but the conjunction "for" never does.
The correlative conjunctions "either...or," "neither ... nor," "both . . . and . . . ," and "not only . . . but also. . ." can be used n many of the same ways. Notice the positions of both parts of the correlative conjunctions. Not every possible combination is given below.

With two words:
nouns/pronouns:
"
either
John
or
I" "
neither
cheese
nor
meat" "
both
water
and
wine" "
not only

him
,
but also

her
"
verbs:
"
either
ate
or
drank"
adjectives:
"
neither
kind
nor
gentle"
adverbs:
"
both
slowly
and
carefully"
prepositions:
"
not only
by
but also
for (the people)"

nouns with adjective phrases:
"
either
the mayor of Ellsworth
or
the man driving the car"
nouns with adjective clauses:
"
neither
the boy who took my hat
nor
the girl who gave it back"
Because the correlative conjunction "whether . . . or . . ." is not only about choice, but also has a sense of uncertainty (something the speaker isn't sure about), it is not used as freely as the other correlative conjunctions. In short, it is used for alternatives between ideas (like "he swims"), not just parts of ideas (like "quickly").

So, it is very natural and easy to use it with clauses.
"
Whether
you buy them today,
or
you borrow them tomorrow, you need good shoes for this hike."

In the example above, the main idea is "you need good shoes for this hike." It doesn't matter how you get them. You can buy them today, or you can borrow them tomorrow. The other clauses are dependent clauses.
verbs with objects:
"
both
bought an apple
and
sold it"
verbs with adverbs:
"
not only
spoke quickly
but also
smiled weakly"
adjectives with adverbs of degree:
"
either
very happy
or
very smart"
"
neither
running around
nor
singing a song, (She . . .)"
adjective clauses:
"
both
which you bought
and
which I love"
adverbs with adverbs of degree:
"
not only
very early
but also
very well"
adverb clauses (a.k.a. dependent/subordinate clauses!):
"
either
when you can deliver it
or
when I can pick it up"
prepositional phrases:
"
neither
in the box
nor
on the floor"
It is also easy to use them with subject nouns in a single dependent clause followed by a main clause.

"
Whether
Mom
or
Dad buys them, you need new shoes."

We can also use them for verbs in a sentence like this.

"
Whether
John buys
or
builds it, he needs a table."

direct object:
"
Whether
John brings a chair
or
a stool, he he needs a place to sit."

indirect object:
"
Whether
John brings me
or
you a chair, at least one of us will be able to sit."

prepositional phrases (acting as adverbs):
"
Whether
John carries it in the car
or
on his back, we need that chair."

adjectives:
"
Whether
(it is) cold
or
hot, apple pie is delicious"
adverbs:
"
Whether
the dog bites quickly
or
slowly, it still scares me."

prepositions:
"Whether
to
or
from
the city, the train still uses energy."

Notice that sometimes other words come between the first word of the correlative conjunction and the first of the two things which are joined.

Also, if "whether ... or" can join two subject nouns, then those subjects can also take adjectives.

"
Whether
Mom
or
Dad buys them..."
"
Whether
my Mom
or
your Dad buys them..."
"
Whether
the boy from Brazil
or
the girl from Uzbekistan buys them..."

The same is true for other parts of speech and modifiers.
Compared to the others kinds of conjunctions, it is much simpler to understand how to use subordinating conjunctions like these: although, as much as, because, unless, while, . . .
A subordinating conjunction goes before an independent clause to make a dependent clause. The dependent clause can go first in the sentence, or after another independent clause. Here are several examples. Pay attention to the punctuation of each sentence.
We cannot play tennis
even though
it stopped raining.
Even though
it stopped raining, we cannot play tennis.
She told us all what to do
as if
she were the Queen of England.
As if
she were the Queen of England, she told us all what to do.
Other people think it's not okay to smoke in public
as much as
you think it is okay.
As much as
you think it's okay to smoke in public, other people think it's not okay.
Let me give you my number
before
I forget.
Before
I forget, let me give you my number.
You'll know it
once
you find the right size shoes.
Once
you find the right size shoes, you'll know it!
I'll eat that last piece of pizza
since
nobody wants it.
Since
nobody wants it, I'll eat that last piece of pizza.
John plans to buy a new car
unless
Sue thinks of a good reason not to.
Unless
Sue thinks of a good reason not to, John plans to buy a new car.
I'll move these boxes
wherever
you want me to put them.
Wherever
you want me to put these boxes, I'll move them.
A conjunctive adverb is like a subordinating conjunction because it connects one independent clause to another independent clause, but it is different because it uses different punctuation marks. Here is a list of the most common conjunctive adverbs: however, meanwhile, subsequently, therefore, moreover, consequently, thus, hence, nevertheless, nonetheless, and furthermore. Here is an example of how to use "however" as a conjunctive adverb:
"She did not like doing her homework;
however,
she knew that she had to do it."
In the past, the words "however" was only used in this way, but now, it is also used in other ways, too.
"She spent all her money on chocolate. However, she was able to borrow more from John." In this sentence, "however" is a different kind of transition.
Keep in mind that in both examples, the word "however" shows contrast. The difference is in the punctuation. When you read and right at a higher level with more complex ideas, you will see the word "however" used more often as a conjunctive adverb. Pay attention to how these words are used when you read, and you will understand how to use them better.
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