What Is a Conjunction?

Conjunctions are grammatical joiners, that serve to join other parts of a sentence.

To give appropriate definition, the Conjunction is that part of speechOpens in new window, which include words such as “and,” “but,” “for,” etc., that serves to join words, phrasesOpens in new window, or clausesOpens in new window together to form a complex sentence. See examples below:

Conjunction joining sentence parts
  • Two and eight make ten.
  • The principal and the science teacher were interrogated.
  • You can remain, but I shall go to London.

The word conjunction is said to derived from the Latin conjungo, meaning, “I join with” or “together”. Thus, conjunction is a part of speech used to connect words and sentences. If there were no conjunctions, we should be obliged to make separate sentences; i.e., “The principal and the science teacher were discussing”. Were it not for the conjunction and, we should have to say, The principal was interrogated; the science teacher was interrogated.

Types of Conjunction

Subtypes of conjunctions include the following:

1.  Coordinating conjunctions— There are seven coordinating conjunctionsOpens in new window in English; three are commonly used and include: and, or, and but. The other four, which are less common are: for, so, yet, and nor.

It may help you remember these conjunctions by recalling that they all have fewer than four letters. Also, remember the acronym FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). These words are used to connect any two units that are to be considered jointly or of the same type. For example, they can connect two syntactical units, such as: two nouns, two verbs, two adjectives, etc.

The following are examples:

Notice in the sentences below the units joined by the coordinating conjunctions are of the same word class (as, nouns, adjectives etc.)

  • People study medicine or dentistry (nouns) when they enroll at that institution.
  • The spectators had juice and cookies (nouns).
  • That restaurant is known for healthy and nutritious (adjectives) food.
  • I’m buying either the striped or paisley (adjectives) wallpaper.

2.  Subordinating conjunctions — Subordinating conjunctionsOpens in new window—which include the words: after, because, although, if, before, since, though, unless, when, now that, even though, only if, while, as, whereas, whether or not, since, in order that, while, even if, until, so, in case, etc.— always function to introduce a subordinate, or dependent clause.

The subordinating conjunction is always the first word of the dependent clause, and answers one of the adverb questions (how? When? Where? Why?) about something in another clause. A subordinating conjunction will always introduce an adverb that modifies a verb, adjective, or adverb in another clause.

Observe the Examples below:
  • He continued arguing until everyone finally agreed with him.
  • They came out to play football when the rain started falling.
  • John will renew his renew his rent once he gets his salary.
  • She listened to him politely, even though his comments sounded silly.
  • They couldn’t get into the house since they misplaced the keys.

In all the examples we’ve seen so far, the dependent clause has come after the main sentence. But sometimes the dependent clause comes before the main sentence. In the following examples, the subordinating conjunctions are in bold, and the main sentences are identified in italics:

  • If he knew the truth, her father would throw the doll away.
  • When I brought my first paycheck home, I wanted to frame it.
  • Once he gets his salary, John will renew his rent.
  • Since since they misplaced the keys, they couldn’t get into the house.

3.  Correlative Conjunction —Correlative conjunctionsOpens in new window are a sort of conjunctions used in pairs. They connect equal sentence elements: words to words, phrases to phrases, and clauses to clauses. The main correlative conjunctions are both-and, either-or, neither-nor, not only-but (also), and whether-or.

Examples include:
  • You may be judged either by your words or by your actions.

either-or are correlative conjunctions, connecting the phrases by your words and by your actions.

  • Dyke proofread his resume both quickly and carefully.

both-and are correlative conjunctions, connecting the adverbs quickly and carefully.

    See related studies for conjunction.
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