What is a Conjunction? Definition & Examples

What does a conjunction do?
Where is a conjunction used?
What is a conjunction?

Here we have answers to all these questions!

Conjunctions, one of the English parts of speech, act as linkers to join different parts of a sentence. Without conjunctions, the expression of the complex ideas will seem odd as you will have to use short sentences that may irritate the readers.

Here is a precise definition of conjunction.

“Conjunctions are words that join or connect the words, phrases, or clauses together.

What are the Most Frequently Used Conjunctions?

There is a long list of conjunctions, but these are the most frequently used.

  • And
  • Or
  • But

And

Here are some uses of the conjunction and.

1- To predict that one action follows the other one in a particular chronological manner. For example:

  • Smith wrote to Hardy and waited for his response.

2- To show that one idea results in the sequence of the second idea. For instance:

  • We met rain on the way and had to stop there.

3- To comment on the idea described in the earlier section. For example:

  • James had a severe accident on the highway – and I’m sad about him.

Or

The conjunction “Or” suggests that any one of the choices is acceptable. For instance:

  • Would you like to have tea or coffee?
  • They will go either to visit cold places or museums.

But

In most cases, the word “But” is used to:

1- Show a contrast of ideas like in the following sentences.

  • James is weak but energetic.
  • It was a hot day, but we enjoyed it.
  • Austen is poor but truly honest.

2- Express the meaning of anything except for something or someone. For instance:

  • Every person but Tess was present.
  • Everybody but James enjoyed it.

Conjunction definition

Functions of Conjunctions

From the definition of conjunctions, their following functions are evident.

1- Join the Words Together

As mentioned above, the conjunctions join the words together.

Examples

Here are some examples of conjunctions where they are acting as linkers to join different words together.

  • I always work quickly and honestly.
  • Do you like sandwiches and eggs for breakfast?
  • We’ll play hockey and football this evening.

In all the above sentences, conjunctions are connecting two words. So, these act as a linker between different words.

2- Join the Phrases Together

Another function of conjunctions is to join different phrases together.

Examples

Here are some examples of conjunctions functioning as a link between different phrases.

  • Will you like to stay here or go back?
  • Are they going on a trip or back to college?

You can observe that the word ‘or’ is connecting different phrases together.

3- Join the Parts of Sentences Together

According to the definition, the third function of conjunctions is to link different parts of the sentences.

Examples

In the following sentences, conjunctions are acting as linkers between different parts of the sentences.

  • The rescue team arrived but couldn’t save the patient.
  • He ran but missed the bus.

A connection between different parts of the sentences is evident here.

History and Origin

The word conjunction, derived from the French word Conjonction, is a biannual journal. We can trace the first use of conjunctions to the 14th century.  Bradford Morrow, the winner of the PEN/Nora Magid Award in collaboration with many other editors, edited this term in 1981 at Bard College. It was a collaborative edition, and all the writers and editors agree with his work.

Types of Conjunctions

There is a long list of conjunctions, and it is hard to learn them as a whole. We can divide conjunctions into three major types. Here is a detail of all these kinds.

1- Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating Conjunctions join two clauses or parts of speech that have equal grammatical value or syntactic importance. These kinds of conjunctions have multiple uses and are used to join words, clauses, or phrases.

List of Coordinating Conjunctions

Seven coordinating conjunctions serve various purposes. Here is the list of these conjunctions.

  • For
  • And
  • Nor
  • But
  • Or
  • Yet
  • So

How to Remember Coordinating Conjunctions?

It is not tough to remember the coordinating conjunctions. An acronym used to memorize these conjunctions is FANBOYS. You can easily remember these conjunctions through this short form.

Types of Coordinating Conjunctions

Here are different subdivisions of coordinating conjunctions.

a) Cumulative Coordinating Conjunction

Cumulative conjunction interlinks two supportive objects or ideas. These also add one statement to another for the sake of extra information. “And” is cumulative coordinating conjunction.

Examples

Here are some uses of a cumulative coordinating conjunction.

  • Hellen woke up and hurried to the office.
  • Alice went shopping for households, and Peter cleaned the house.
  • Antonia is very clever and sharp.

Other Cumulative Conjunctions

Some other cumulative conjunctions are:

  • As well as
  • Also
  • Both
  • Not only
  • But also
  • Well
  • Now

b) Adversative Coordinating Conjunctions

As the name suggests, the adversative conjunctions join two opposite or contrastive parts of a sentence. Out of all coordinating conjunctions, ‘but’ and ‘yet’ are adversative conjunctions.

Examples

Here are some uses of adversative coordinating conjunctions.

  • James is thin but strong.
  • Henry is poor yet grateful.
  • He is aggressive but still calm.

Other Adversative Conjunctions

Besides the above coordinating adversative conjunctions, here are some more.

  • Still
  • Whereas
  • Nevertheless
  • While

c) Alternative Coordinating Conjunctions

The Alternative Coordinating Conjunctions act as linkers to coin two contrasting situations. These coordinating conjunctions connect those situations where choice is possible. “Or” and “Nor” are alternative conjunctions.

Examples

  • You can leave or stay.
  • You can read either a novel or aplay.
  • Neither can he afford a car nor a bike.

Other Alternative Conjunctions

Other alternative conjunctions are:

  • Either
  • Neither
  • Else
  • Otherwise

d) Illative Coordinating Conjunctions

Illative conjunctions show the influence, results, or inferences of one part of the sentence on the other. “For” and “So” fall under this category.

Examples

Here are some examples of the use of illative coordinating conjunctions.

  • He left for a long ride.
  • Jim works hard so that he can achieve his goals.
  • Jerry is ill, so he can’t attend the class.

Other Illative Coordinating Conjunctions

Hence, because, etc. also fall under this category.

Rules for Using Coordinating Conjunctions

There are some rules and regulations for the proper use of coordinating conjunctions. You can’t use these conjunctions correctly if you don’t know how to use them. So, these rules are necessary to learn.

1- When you use coordinating conjunctions to connect the independent clauses, put a comma before them. For example:

  • I’ve to leave for the USA, so I can’t stay here.

2- Never use a comma before the coordinating conjunction when it is connecting two items or words. For example:

  • He read a novel and a short story.

3- It is optimal to use a comma before the coordinating conjunction when it acts as a linker to connect a list of items. For example:

  • Catherine is cooking fried rice, potato fries, and corn. Or
  • Catherine is cooking fried rice, potato fries, and corn.

It’s up to you whether you use a comma or not. Also, it depends upon the sense of the sentence.

2- Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating Conjunctions are the linkers that make a relation between an independent clause and a dependent clause. These linkers make cause-and-effect relationships in the sentences. You’ll notice such a relationship in the sentences with subordinating conjunctions.

Functions of Subordinating Conjunctions

A dependent clause is incomplete. For a complete expression of meaning, a reliable connection of this clause is necessary with an independent clause. Some suitable words can establish such a relationship. You can interpret a clear meaning through these connected clauses.

List of Subordinating Conjunctions

There is a long list of subordinating conjunctions. The list of most frequently used subordinating conjunctions is in the following section.

  • Whether
  • Rather than
  • As much as
  • Than,
  • Whereas
  • Which,
  • Whatever
  • After
  • As soon as
  • Whichever
  • As long as
  • By the time
  • Before
  • Once
  • Now that
  • Till
  • Until
  • Since
  • Whenever
  • Though
  • While
  • As though
  • Even though
  • Although
  • Whom
  • Whomever
  • Whoever
  • Whose
  • If
  • As if
  • Only if
  • Where
  • Wherever
  • Assuming that
  • Provided that
  • Unless
  • Even if
  • How
  • In case
  • Since
  • Because
  • As
  • That,
  • In order

How to Memorize Subordinate Conjunctions

It is a tough job to memorize a long list of subordinating conjunctions. So, there should be a short form for these conjunctions. You can use the short form “ON A WHITE BUS” to remember these conjunctions. See the following list as it will assist you a lot.

O: Only if, Once

N: Now that

A: As, After, Although

W: Whenever, Whoever, Whose, Whomever, Whatever, Whoever, Whomever, Where, Wherever, When, While, Who, Whether


H: How


I: So that, If, In case of, In order


T: Though


E: Even if, Even though


B: Before, Because


U: Unless, Until


S: So, So that, Since

This list may be beneficial for many non-native speakers. It will help them to use the exact subordinate conjunctions.

Types of Subordinate Conjunctions

Subordinate conjunctions have a long list. It is hard to remember them. These conjunctions have sub-categories for easy use. The difference among all these kinds of subordinating conjunctions is their way of connecting different clauses. Here are the seven types of these linkers.

  1. Comparison

This kind of subordinating conjunctions makes a relation between the independent clause and dependent clause by comparing them. Here is the list of these conjunctions.

  • Rather than
  • Whether
  • As much as
  • Than
  • Whereas

Examples

  • Jerry liked coffee, whereas Harry preferred tea.
  • Someone has to represent the class tomorrow, whether it’s you or me.
  • Concession

As the name suggests, concession subordinate conjunctions are the linkers that connect a dependent clause to an independent one by conceding any particular point between them. Here is a list of these conjunctions.

  • Although
  • Though
  • Even though

Examples

  • Although I’m ill, I’d go to work.
  • We’ll have to attend the class, despite the bad weather.
  • Condition

Such subordinating conjunctions connect a dependent clause and an independent clause based on some particular condition or information. Here is a list of these conjunctions.

  • Only if
  • If
  • Unless
  • Even if
  • Lest
  • Assuming that
  • Provided that

Examples

  • Unless I finish my work, I can’t go home.
  • You’ll have to work extra hours, in case you miss the lectures.

d) Time

Such subordinate conjunctions connect the independent and dependent clauses based on any time relationship between them. Here is a list of these conjunctions.

  • As soon as
  • Before
  • As long as
  • After
  • Once
  • By the time
  • Since
  • Now that
  • Until
  • Till
  • While
  • Whenever
  • When

Examples

  • After the lecture is over, we’ll move to the canteen.
  • I’ll have to finish the task before lunchtime.
  • Once I visited Great Britain.

e) Place

These subordinating linkers connect a dependent and an independent clause via any place relationship. Here are frequently used conjunctions of this type.

  • Wherever
  • Where

Examples

  • The thieves hid the money where no one could guess.
  • Wherever possible, start a profitable business for a better future.

f) Manner

These kinds of subordinate conjunctions connect two clauses by showing the way of doing something. Here is a list of these conjunctions.

  • As though
  • How
  • As if

Examples

  • James started singing as if he was not a singer.
  • Jim used to help the needy though he was poor himself.
  • How was the trip?

g) Reason

These types of subordinate conjunctions act as linkers to connect two clauses based on any particular reason. Here is a list of these conjunctions.

  • Since
  • Because
  • So that
  • That
  • In order
  • As

Examples

  • James has been reading in this college since 2016.
  • We arrived earlier so that we could prepare for the presentation.

Rules and Regulations for Using Subordinating Conjunctions

Different subordinating conjunctions have different rules and regulations for proper use. It depends on the type of information contained in the sentence. Also, their use depends on the dependent and independent clauses. Keeping in mind all these facts and figures, you have to punctuate such sentences differently. Here are some points that will help you to place commas while using subordinating conjunctions.

1- It is not necessary that the dependent clause will come before the independent clause or vice versa. Both these cases are possible in different situations. So, the placentation of the comma depends on the placentation of these clauses. See the following example.

  • We have to attend the class, despite the bad weather.

In this sentence, the subordinating clause came after the main clause. So, there is no need for a comma. Now see the similar sentence in another manner.

  • Despite the bad weather, we have to attend the class.

In this sentence, the subordinating clause came before the main clause, and a comma is necessary after the dependent clause to make a clear sense.

3- Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are used in pairs to compare or contrast the equal parts of any sentence. They act to join the words or phrases with equal weight. You’ll always encounter them in pairs within a sentence.  You may say that these act as a team of conjunctions.

The name of these linkers justifies their job. “Co” means to work in coordination, and ‘relative’ means to join different elements of the sentence together. You can guess their job by this definition.

List of Correlative Conjunctions

Here is the list of most frequently used correlative conjunctions.

  • Either, or
  • Neither, nor
  • Both, and
  • Whether, or
  • Not only, but also
  • As, as
  • Not, but
  • Such, that
  • As many, as
  • Scarcely, when
  • Rather, than
  • No sooner, than

Examples

  • The child wants either a cheesecake or a chocolate cake.
  • Neither we’ll visit the ocean nor the hills.
  • We’ll visit both the ocean and the hills.
  • Tell me whether you want to stay or leave?
  • He’s not only intelligent but also clever.
  • Scattering is not as fun as a child’s play.
  • I can see you are not in the mood for the trip but rest.
  • Such was their love that they couldn’t survive separately.
  • There are as many people in the hall as can fit.
  • Tim scarcely drove two kilometers when he met with an accident.
  • I’d rather play basketball than hockey.

Rules for Using Correlative Conjunctions

Some rules and tips are necessary to learn for the appropriate use of correlative conjunctions. Here are some tips that will help you to use these conjunctions properly.

1- There is no need for a comma if there is a dependent clause in the second part of the sentence.  If you encounter an independent clause in the second part, use a comma. If you are going to connect two independent clauses via correlative conjunctions, use a comma. Read the following example.

  • I not only like to drink coffee but also tea.

In this example, correlative conjunctions connect two phrases. So, there is no need for a comma. Now, let’s rearrange the sentence.

  • I not only like to drink coffee, but I also like tea.

After rearranging the sentence, two independent clauses have emerged. In such a sentence, a comma is crucial.

2- When you use the pair neither/nor, don’t use a double negative. If you do so, it will be your mistake. Look at the following sentence.

  • He didn’t like neither coffee nor tea. ( Incorrect use of correlative conjunctions )

You’ll have seen that in the above sentence, the use of double negative and correlative conjunctions neither/nor is not creating a proper sense. You’ll see a conflict when deciding the meaning of this sentence. In the correct form, this sentence would be as follows.

  • He liked neither coffee nor tea.

This sentence is conveying a complete meaning, unlike the above one.

3- Try to fulfill the logic and proximity rules when using correlative conjunctions.

According to the proximity rule, use the verb form of the closest subject when you are connecting singular and plural subjects.

According to the logic rule, use the plural verb form if any of the subjects is plural. Try to fulfill these rules when using correlative conjunctions.

Conjunctive Adverbs

Conjunctive adverbs also act as linkers to connect one clause to another, but their method is different. As the name suggests, such linkers act as adverbs in the sentence. These change the sense of the clause they’re introducing by converting it into a modifier of the verb of the main clause. Conjunctive adverbs have many names like ‘adverbial conjunctions or subordinating adverbs, all suggesting that they act as modifiers of the verb.

List of Conjunctive Adverbs

Here is the list of most frequently used conjunctive adverbs.

  • Hence
  • Again
  • Additionally
  • As a result
  • Almost
  • Anyway
  • In addition
  • Conversely
  • Consequently
  • Eventually
  • Elsewhere
  • Equally
  • Besides
  • Finally
  • Comparatively
  • Certainly
  • Contrarily
  • Further
  • Elsewhere
  • However
  • Henceforth
  • Therefore
  • On the other hand
  • Nonetheless

Examples

  • Jim was distracted on the road; therefore, he met with an accident.
  • She has been ill for the last few days; however, she is going to work.
  • I love mountains; in fact, keep them in our plan.
  • Tim stood first in the class; in addition, he got a position on the board.
  • I don’t know you; nonetheless, I’m standing with you.
  • Harry is angry with me; on the other hand, he’s trying to approach me.
  • Finally, we’ve reached our destination.
  • In addition to the written assignment, we’ve to learn it by heart.

Rules for Using Conjunctive Adverbs

Keep in mind the following rules and regulations for the precise use of conjunctive adverbs.

  • Always use a period or semicolon before and a comma after them when connecting two independent clauses with such linkers.
  • If any other conjunction is accompanying, use a comma between the conjunctive adverb and the main clause.
  • If these linkers appear in the middle, enclose them in the commas.

Final Thoughts

“Conjunctions” play a central role in the English language. Without using them, you’ll have to use short sentences that will seem very odd. Conjunctions join different parts of a sentence to make a clear sense. A dependent clause can deliver its meaning only in association with an independent clause. Linkers are the words that can make a link between dependent and independent clauses. All this is possible through conjunctions. Without a proper understanding of the conjunctions, you will fail to use them appropriately. So, go through the above discussion to make your speech and writings accurate.

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By Bizhan Romani

Dr. Bizhan Romani has a PhD in medical virology. When it comes to writing an article about science and research, he is one of our best writers. He is also an expert in blogging about writing styles, proofreading methods, and literature.

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