What is a Conjunction? | Basic English Grammar Rules | ESL | SAT | TOEFL

Conjunctions are the glue in English sentences.

They hold parts of a sentence together.

Words, phrases, and clauses are brought together by these invaluable parts of speech.

There are 3 kinds of conjunctions: coordinating, subordinating, and correlative.

They all have their own special way of connecting parts of a sentence.

First, let’s look at the most familiar kind of conjunctions - coordinating conjunctions.

They can be used to join together words, phrases, AND independent clauses.

There are seven common coordinating conjunctions: For, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.


That’s a little mnemonic to remember the coordinating conjunctions.

We’ll look at 3 examples of coordinating conjunctions - to see how they can join words,

phrases, or independent clauses.

I would like to have a dog and a cat.

Notice how the coordinating conjunctions always come

between the words or phrases they are joining together.

You can buy fresh bread in the bakery or at the grocery store.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

(That Oscar Wilde really knew how to join some independent clauses together,

didn’t he.)

Subordinating conjunctions, by contrast, are only used to join together two clauses -

one dependent and one independent.

Subordinate conjunctions include the words before, after, although, because, since, unless,

until, while, though...and many more.

They’re called subordinate conjunctions because they join a “subordinate,” or

“dependent” clause, to an independent clause.

Let’s see these sticky words at work:

I didn’t feel like eating ice cream, because it was too cold out.

Although it was cold out, we still went swimming.

Notice that the subordinate conjunction can appear either between the two clauses or it

can be found at the beginning of the sentence.

Finally, let’s talk about Correlative Conjunctions.

They always come in pairs, and are used to join together words, phrases,

and clauses of similar length and impact.

These include either/or; neither/nor; not only/but also; both/and; whether/or…

Neither the threat of rain nor the sound of thunder would stop Henry

from walking his dog.

You can either tell me the answer to the riddle or you can leave this dinner party immediately!

She was not only a terrible host, but also a terrible guest.

Once upon a time, there was a very silly rumor floating around that you could not start a

sentence with a conjunction.

I don’t know who started this rumor.

It’s perfectly acceptable to use a conjunction to give the start of your sentence a little


In the words of Groucho Marx: “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening.

But this wasn’t it.”

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