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Conjunctions Help

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Updated on Sep 1, 2011

Introduction to Conjunctions

When you write, does it matter if your connectors are correlative, coordinating, or subordinating? Does it matter if the elements being connected are similar? Find out here.

Conjunctions are connecting words. They join words, phrases, and sentences in writing and speech. Conjunctions come in three forms: coordinating, correlative, and subordinating. Coordinating and correlative conjunctions connect similar elements: nouns with nouns, phrases with phrases, sentences with sentences. Subordinating conjunctions connect elements that are dissimilar.

Tip: Some people think it is wrong to start a sentence with a conjunction like and, but, or so. Today, it is perfectly acceptable and helps to add emphasis. Just do not overdo it.

Coordinating Conjunctions

The acronym FANBOYS will help you remember the seven, and only seven, coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.

Coordinating Conjunctions

Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions come in pairs and are used as such. They connect sentence elements of similar structure and importance. There are five common pairs of correlative conjunctions.

Correlative Conjunctions

Tip: As you read, you may find that whether is used without its pair-mate, which can be okay. For example, "I'm not sure whether I can go with you." Here, the other half of the pair is implied: "I'm not sure whether (or not) I can go with you."

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions connect an independent clause to a dependent, or subordinate, clause. For a review of clauses, see Lesson 14. The subordinating conjunction expresses the relationship between the meanings of the independent and dependent clauses.

Subordinating Conjunctions

The preceding table shows some commonly used subordinating conjunctions and some relationships they convey. The logic of their use lies in the relationship of the dependent and subordinate clauses. For example, in the sentence

    The program will have to be discontinued unless more interest is generated.

the clause unless more interest is generated cannot stand alone because its meaning depends on the independent clause The program will have to be discontinued.

Tip: Think you're seeing things? You're not; many subordinating conjunctions previously shown are also listed as prepositions. Don't forget— words can play many different roles in a sentence! For example, depending on its function, the word since can play three roles.

    It can be an adverb:
    He's been over there since.

or a preposition:

    I haven't had fresh pineapple since my trip to Hawaii.

or a conjunction:

    We haven't been to the beach since the weather been so unpleasant all summer.

Exercises for this concept can be found at Conjunctions Practice.

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