An Introduction to Conjunctions

Most simply, a conjunction is a word which joins together words, phrases, or sentences. In English, the most commonly seen conjunction is ‘and’.

  1. Alice and Bob
  2. three pencils and five erases
  3. The girl sings, and the boy listens.

This type of conjunction is called a coordinating conjunction. The function of which is to take two different grammatical entities and merge them into one. In the three examples above, each phrase or sentence has two unique parts joined as one by the coordinating conjunction ‘and’.

So, a coordinating conjunction is a word which takes two independent, or equal, grammatical entities and combines them into a single entity on equal terms.

  • The girl sings.
  • And the boy listens.

Both of these sentences can stand as independent, grammatically correct sentences. This stands in contrast to the subordinating conjunction, another major class of conjunctions in English, which join together sentences into an unequal relationship. That is, a subordinating conjunction makes a sentence dependent upon (or subordinate to) a main sentence.

One of the most common English subordinating conjunctions is the word ‘because’. Let’s examine an example:

  • The girl sings, because the boy likes it.

Immediately, we can see a difference between the functions of ‘and’ and ‘because’. In the case of ‘and’ the two parts of the sentence in example 3 above are coordinated into one as equal parts.

The opposite is true in our subordinating example. Let’s examine this further:

  • The girl sings.
  • Because the boy likes it.

While in our example above the first sentence is a perfectly fine independent sentence, the second one is not. This is due to the word ‘because’, which has made the second sentence depend on the first for its meaning. We expect extra information to accompany the second sentence. Therefore, it is unable to stand alone.

Following are some charts containing common English conjunctions and their functions in sentences:

Coordinating Conjunctions
and, but, or, nor, yet, for, so

A good way to remember these common coordinating conjunctions is with the acronym FANBOYS; For And Nor But Or Yet So.

Subordinating Conjunctions
Time after, as, as soon as, before, once, since, until, when, while
Manner as, if, as though, like
Contrasting although, though, whereas, while, except
Cause/Effect because, in that, now that, since, so that
Conditional if, incase, provided, unless
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