What is a conjunction?

Create complex, flowing sentences with conjunctions

Christina Levandowski

Christina Levandowski

January 22, 2024

What is a conjunction?

Create complex, flowing sentences with conjunctions

Christina Levandowski

Christina Levandowski

Jan 22, 2024

What is a conjunction?

Create complex, flowing sentences with conjunctions

Christina Levandowski

Christina Levandowski

Jan 22, 2024

Key takeaways

  • Conjunctions connect words – Conjunctions are simple words used to connect ideas, phrases, or words. They make your writing or speech more concise by blending choppy or broken sentences. 
  • There are three main types of conjunctions – In the English language, the types are coordinating, subordinating, and correlative conjunctions.
  • Practice makes perfect – Each type of conjunction has a different purpose in a sentence, which can be confusing at first. Reading and writing regularly will help you determine when and where to use a conjunctive. 

When children first learn to write, they are taught to form short sentences such as “My name is Amber. I have a cat. Its name is Rolo.” 

When conjunctions come into play, children learn how to connect these short sentences to make their writing flow better. For example: “My name is Amber, and I have a cat named Rolo.”

In this article, we explore what conjunctions are and how you can use them to improve your writing.

What is a conjunction?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a conjunction is a word that connects words, phrases, and clauses in a sentence. Think of them as bridges that connect ideas. Conjunctions are a vital part of writing and speech that allow you to create more complex, flowing sentences. 

Here is a list of commonly used conjunctions:

  • And
  • As
  • Because
  • But
  • For
  • If
  • Neither
  • Or
  • So
  • When
  • Whether
  • Yet

How do conjunctions work?

Conjunctions help you form elegant pieces of writing and avoid short, repetitive sentences by connecting words, clauses, or phrases. They are particularly useful when creating lists. 

For example:

  • “Carl went to the supermarket to buy bread, milk and eggs.”

Conjunctions can also be used to vary sentence structure, making your writing more enjoyable to read. However, certain rules need to be followed when using conjunctions. 

One of the most important rules is to make sure that all parts of a sentence agree.

For example:

  • Incorrect: “I work busily but am careful.”
  • Correct: “I work busily yet carefully.”

In addition, bear in mind that conjunctions don’t always need to be used.

For example, “that” is an effective way to connect a dependent clause (incomplete thought) to a preceding verb. However, many sentences don’t need this additional word. So, read through your sentence to see if it fits or not. 

For example:

  • “She said (that) she was tired.”
  • “You know (that) some people are scared of clowns.”

The three types of conjunctions

Conjunctions generally fall into one of three categories depending on how they’re used.

1. Coordinating conjunctions

A coordinating conjunction is a connective word that links similar sentence elements. For example, “cake or biscuit.” There are only seven coordinating conjunctions in the English language. These are: 

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

If you struggle to remember these seven coordinating conjunctions, you can use the acronym FANBOYS to remind you. 

A coordinating conjunction is placed between the words or items that it links together.

Below are some examples of coordinating conjunctions used in sentences:

  • “I’d like a basketball or a tennis racket for my birthday.”
  • “The house was too noisy, so I went to the library to do my work.”
  • “The portrait was very old, but it was still meaningful to the family.”
  • The children did not do their homework, nor did they pass the exam.”
  • “The patient was in a lot of pain, yet she still refused treatment.”

“For” is not commonly used as a coordinating conjunction in modern English. It’s more often used as a preposition, coming before the noun in a sentence to express a relation to another word, such as location or direction.

For example:

  • “She ran for several miles.” 

Transition words like “therefore” or “however” can also be used as coordinating conjunctions in certain circumstances. 

For example:

  • “The teachers agreed on the scale of the problem; however, they disagreed on its cause.”
  • “The hall was empty, and therefore, Marissa went home.”

But, these words are more often used as conjunctive adverbs, which connect two independent clauses (sentences that make sense as stand-alone), to create a compound sentence. 

Conjunctive adverbs include a semicolon to connect the two independent ideas.

For example: 

  • “I washed my hands; therefore, my hands are clean.”
  • I don’t like eating Italian food; however, I love pizza.”

2. Subordinating conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions connect an independent clause (complete sentence or thought) with a dependent clause (incomplete sentence) to indicate a cause-and-effect relationship. 

Subordinating conjunctions can come at the beginning of a sentence or somewhere in the middle, unlike coordinating conjunctions, which are always placed in the middle of a sentence.

Common subordinating conjunctions include:

  • After
  • Although
  • Because
  • Despite
  • Unless
  • While
  • Even if
  • Whether

Sentences can be structured in two different ways when using subordinating conjunctions.

  1. Main clause + dependent clause. For example: “I will bring my dog unless you are allergic.”
  2. Dependent clause + main clause. For example: “After giving instructions, the teacher began the test.”

If the dependent clause and subordinating conjunction come before the main clause, then you should use a comma. If they appear after the main clause then no comma is needed. 

3. Correlative conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are like coordinating conjunctions. The main difference is that correlative conjunctions work in pairs to join phrases or words of similar importance.

Often, the two independent words or phrases connected by a correlative conjunction can work just as well without each other. But, by adding a correlative conjunction, you can make your writing more concise.

There are many correlative conjunctions in the English language. Some of the more commonly used examples include:

  • Both/and
  • Such/that
  • Not only/but also
  • As many/as
  • No sooner/than
  • Whether/but

Below are some examples of correlative conjunctions used in sentences:

  • “She wasn’t sure whether to take the day off school, but her mother insisted.”
  • Either you’re with me or against me.”
  • “The girls would rather go to the movies than a museum.”
  • “They not only ate all the biscuits but also drank all the coffee.”

Each conjunction type plays a different function in a sentence. However, the same word can be used in multiple ways to convey an idea, which is why some words are classified as more than one type of conjunction. 

When it comes to knowing when to use conjunctions, it’s a good idea to read a variety of texts and note when and how they are used. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Explore conjunctions with DoodleEnglish

DoodleEnglish is an app that’s filled with thousands of fun, interactive exercises covering grammar, punctuation, spelling and more!

Designed by teachers, it creates each child a unique work programme tailored to their needs, boosting their confidence and skills in English. Try it for free today!

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FAQs about conjunctions

Many teachers say you can’t start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. However, this isn’t strictly true, especially when writing informally. It’s perfectly acceptable to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction, such as ‘but’ or ‘and’. Just make sure you understand your audience because many people still view this approach as an error. 

Conjunctions are connective words used to link thoughts, clauses, or words to make your writing more concise. There are generally three types of conjunctions, which all have different functions in a sentence: coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, and correlative conjunctions.

It is grammatically acceptable to have two conjunctions in one sentence as long as they accurately connect different parts of a sentence. For example, in fiction, multiple conjunctions might be necessary to describe a scene or event. However, it’s important not to overdo it because conjunctions add complexity to a sentence. So, make sure your sentences remain clear and easy to understand. 

Conjunctions are words that connect other words, phrases, or clauses, indicating logical relationships between parts of a sentence. 

For example: “Amy was a good student, but she struggled to concentrate in the heat.”

Conjunctions are often single words that are used within a sentence. However, connectives are more generalised. Conjunctions are connectives. However, the term connectives also includes prepositions or adverbs to connect separate sentences.

For example: “School was fun today. In addition, I got to enjoy a family film in the evening.”

Screenshot 2023-10-13 at 16.29.14

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