Conjunctions – how to understand them

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Conjunctions – definition

conjunctions There are two main types of conjunctions:

  • Co-ordinating conjunctions join together parts of a sentence which are of equal status.
  • Subordinating conjunctions join together parts of a sentence which have a complex relationship.


redbtn There are five co-ordinating conjunctions in English:

and   or   nor   but   for

redbtn There are many more subordinating conjunctions:

whereas, where, if, because, while, as, when, since


redbtn Co-ordinating conjunctions are used in the following statements:

Jim and Sally are going to the concert.
Give me that gun or I’ll call the police.
Neither a lender nor a borrower be.
We have no lemons but we do have some limes.

redbtn NB! It is possible for a word to be a conjunction in one sentence and a different part of speech in another.

redbtn The words and, or, nor, but, for are all co-ordinating conjunctions.

redbtn They are conjunctions because they usually join together parts of a sentence.

redbtn They are co-ordinating because the parts they join are of equal rank. For example:

We have no limes but we do have some lemons.

redbtn Conjunctions should not be confused with adverbs such as:

moreover, besides, so, consequently, however, also

redbtn Take the following statement:

The weather was bad last Tuesday so we stayed at home.

redbtn Here the word so links the two parts, but it creates a sequence and a sense of cause and effect — rather than the joining of two equal statements.

redbtn The conjunction may not always be placed between the words being linked. It can appear elsewhere:

Because I was tired, I went to bed early.

Self-assessment quiz follows …

© Roy Johnson 2003

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