Conjunctions

Introduction

One of the eight parts of speech in English is called a conjunction. A conjunction is a word that can join words, phrases, or clauses. Here are some simple examples:

  • Bread and butter (words)
  • In the morning and in the afternoon (phrases)
  • He was tall, but he wasn’t skinny. (clauses)

Types of Conjunctions

Coordinating Conjunctions

A coordinating conjunction is one that can join two main clauses (i.e., two independent clauses). Recall that an independent clause is a group of words with a subject and verb that can stand alone as an independent sentence.

The coordinating conjunctions can be easily remembered via the acronym FANBOYS.

  • For – means “because” or “since”.
  • And – joins two parts in a positive way (as opposed to “but”).
  • Nor – “and not” or “not or”; the negative of an “or”; often used with “neither”.
  • But – joins two parts but second part limits or qualifies the first part.
  • Or – joins two equal alternatives; could mean either alternative or perhaps both.
  • Yet – means “nevertheless” or “but”; indicates a contrast or contraindication.
  • So – means “therefore”.

Subordinating Conjunctions

A subordinating conjunction is one that joins one main clause to one or more subordinate clauses. A subordinate clause cannot stand alone as a completely independent sentence and is usually of lower importance, priority, or emphasis than the main clause. There are many subordinating conjunctions. Some of the most common ones are listed below:

  • after
  • although
  • as
  • as if
  • as long as
  • as much as
  • as soon as
  • as though
  • because
  • before
  • even if
  • even though
  • how
  • if
  • inasmuch
  • in order that
  • lest
  • now that
  • provided (that)
  • since
  • so that
  • than
  • that
  • though
  • till ( or ’til)
  • unless
  • until
  • when
  • whenever
  • where
  • wherever
  • while

An adverb clause is always introduced by a subordinating conjunction. A noun clause and an adjective clause are sometimes introduced by a subordinating conjunction.

  • Adverb clause: Before you go, sign the log book.
  • Noun clause: He asked if he could leave early.
  • Adjective clause: That is the place where he was last seen.

A subordinating conjunction is always followed by a clause. Many subordinating conjunctions can also serve as other parts of speech.

  • Adverb: Jill came tumbling after.
  • Preposition: Jill came tumbling after Jack.
  • Subordinating Conjunction: Jill came tumbling after Jack had fallen.

Punctuating Conjunctions in Sentences

  1. When a coordinating conjunction joins words or phrases, no punctuation is used.
    – My dog Floyd has too many fleas and too much hair.
    – My cat Buster has beautiful blue eyes but a destructive personality.
  2. When a coordinating conjunction joins two main clauses, place a comma before the coordinating conjunction.
    – My dog sleeps on the bed, and my cat naps in the bathtub.
  3. When connecting three or more items in a series, you should generally use a comma before the coordinating conjunction.
    – The first three letters of the alphabet are A, B, and C.
    – Would you like grapes, cherries, strawberries, or blueberries?
  4. A subordinate clause at the beginning of a sentence is always followed by a comma.

Can We Begin a Sentence with a Coordinating Conjunction?

In informal writing, yes. In formal writing, some teachers or examiners may not like it. You should ask them what their preferences are.

Examples of Conjunctions in Action

  1. He sacrificed his life to seal the portal, for all would have been lost otherwise.
  2. The batter hit a high fly ball, and the center field player caught it.
  3. Neither rain nor snow shall stop us from getting through.
  4. It rained heavily, but they still did not cancel the game.
  5. You can pay me now or pay me later, but either way you’ll pay me eventually.
  6. I gave him many reasons not to go to that area of town, yet he went anyway.
  7. She wouldn’t give me an allowance, so I had to go to work to earn some money.
  1. Although they had been married for thirty years, they still had trust issues.
  2. As long as I get paid, I’ll take any job, large or small.
  3. As much as I hate to say it, he’s one smart man!
  4. I’ll go wherever you want to go.
  5. After the home team won the game, they went out and celebrated.
  6. He cannot get to sleep unless he drinks a warm glass of milk first.
  7. I can go to the movie with you, provided that you can pay for my ticket.
  8. If I were you, I would earn as much money as I could before retiring.
  9. While you’re in the kitchen, can you bring me a beer?
  10. She is introverted and shy whereas he is extroverted and gregarious.

Transition Words (Between Sentences)

Transition words are not conjunctions in the true sense of the word but are mentioned here for completeness and awareness. Transition words are used to “link” sentences together to form a logical or relational train of thought.

English transition words are essential, not only because they connect ideas, but also because they can introduce a certain shift, contrast or opposition, emphasis or agreement, purpose, result or conclusion, etc. in the train of thought or line of argument.

There are too many transition words to list here.This website lists hundreds of transition words and groups them by approximate functional relationship.

Some of the most common transitions words are listed below:

  • As a result
  • Consequently
  • Conversely
  • However
  • First (second, third)
  • Furthermore
  • In addition
  • Moreover
  • Nevertheless or nonetheless

Here are some examples of transition words in use. Note how they help smooth the transition from sentence to sentence in a logical flow pattern.

You need more money to make ends meet? Well, there are several things you can do. First, you can work overtime. Second, you can work a second job. Third, you can ask for donations. However, working overtime and a second job will exhaust you. In addition, your quality of time with your family will suffer. Alternatively, you can just swallow your pride and ask your rich dad to bail you out as usual. That’s what I’d do.

Self-Assessment

  1. List the seven coordinating conjunctions.
  2. What is the difference between a main clause and a subordinate clause?
  3. In informal speech, is it acceptable to begin a sentence with “and” or “but”?
  4. Is a transition word a true conjunction?
  5. A subordinating conjunction is always followed by a clause. (T/F)
  6. Conjunctions can only join clauses, not phrases. (T/F)
  7. A subordinate clause at the beginning of a sentence is always followed by a comma. (T/F)
  8. Two main clauses joined by a conjunction do NOT require a comma before the coordinating conjunction. (T/F)

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