What is a Conjunction?

Brad Smith

I'm the creator of this site (Grammar Gang). I'm also the founder of Codeless, a long-form content creation company that's been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, The Next Web, and hundreds more.

We produce around ~100 long, in-depth articles each month. So we're relying on these tools on a daily basis. Here, I break down the good, bad, and uuuuuuggggllllyyyy.
Brad Smith

A conjunction is a member of the part of speech family that links two or more words, clauses, or phrases together in a sentence.

Also known as ‘connectors’ informally; conjunctions help you connect multiple short sentences to make a beautiful long one and maintain the flow of your writing.

Some common conjunctions we use are ‘and’, ‘because’, ‘since’, ‘therefore’, ‘but’, ‘neither’, ‘nor’, ‘either’, ‘or’, etc.

Take a look at some examples to see how conjunctions connect two words, phrases and clauses in a sentence.

Conjunction Examples

“He is an expert in marketing and growth hacking”. (In this sentence, the word ‘and’ is connecting ‘marketing’ and ‘growth hacking’)

“Sam is the best boxer of this country because he works the hardest”.

(Conjunction ‘because’ is joining two sentences)

“She can sing and dance at the same time”.

(The conjunction ‘and’ linking two phrases)

A few more examples could be:

Since we are the part of a special group, we get discount on almost every product”.

Either you choose white or black”.

“I wanted to start a side hustle, but my hectic job didn’t allow me.

Types of Conjunctions

There are three types of conjunctions – Coordinating Conjunctions, Subordinating Conjunctions, and Correlative Conjunctions.

1. Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating Conjunctions aka coordinators link two or more words, clauses, and phrases that have the same grammatical pattern.

And since they are only seven in number, they’re collectively known as “FANBOYS”, where F means ‘for’, A means ‘and’, N means ‘nor’, B means ‘but’, O stands for ‘or’, Y stands for ‘yet’, and S means ‘so’.

You’ve already seen how ‘and’ connect words and phrases, now, look at the following instances to see how the other Coordinating conjunctions work:

“I want a new haircut for my graduation night”.

“Would you like to have coffee or tea”?

“Exercising is good for health, but never overdo it”.

“He got injured in the mid-race, yet he made it to the final third”.

“He can never be such a cruel man, nor can he hurt someone”.

“Her dad sent her $1000, so she can pay the rent”.

2. Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative Conjunctions work exactly like Coordinative conjunctions but come as pairs to join two words or phrases that have similar syntactic importance.

‘Either/or’, ‘neither/nor’, ‘both/and’, ‘not only/but also’ ‘whether/or’ are a few notable examples of Correlative Conjunctions.

Neither he is a good player, nor is a good coach”.

Both his friend and his brother were found guilty”.

“This apartment is not only spacious, but also very eco-friendly”.

Either we can go right or left.

3. Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating Conjunctions aka subordinators hook up a dependent clause with an independent clause in sentences.

You might be wondering: what is a dependent or independent clause.

In simple words, a dependent clause is a group of words that contain a subject and verb but can never be counted as a complete sentence.

And since, a dependent clause is almost always is introduced by a subordinator, it is also called a Subordinating clause.

On the other hand, we have the independent clause that is also a group of words with a subject and verb but can come as a complete sentence.

A few examples of Subordinating Conjunctions and how they combine the two different clauses are:

Though we had all the resources, we couldn’t complete the project”.

“I am the dean of this college since the last dean left in 1997”.

“They spend money on high-quality products because they believe in quality over quantity”.

“Mike is taking things casually while his wife is toiling for the competition.

Apart from the above instances, a few more words like ‘as’, ‘although’, ‘unless’, ‘whenever’, ‘if’, etc. Some of the adverbs like ‘before’, ‘after’, and ‘until’ can also act as conjunctions in a few occasions.

For example:

“We’re not going to stop pitching until we get our first round of funding”.

“Let’s reach the station before the train departs”.

“This is not going to be a popular app unless we change the user interface”.

Whenever I feel tired, I do Vipassana meditation”.

How to use conjunctions correctly

Though there are no strict rules drawn to add conjunctions in a sentence correctly, you should be aware of the following rules to make your writing smoother. These are:

1. All the parts should agree

When linking two phrases or clauses by conjunction, make sure all the elements of the sentence sync well together. In other words, the different parts of a sentence should be in agreement.

Take this sentence, for example:

Incorrect: “She lives lonely but is happy”.

Correct: “She lives alone but is happy”.

2. Use commas before conjunctions when creating a list or connecting two clauses

Conjunctions like ‘and’ or ‘or’ are generally used to create a list of something, and it’s entirely up to you if you want to use a comma before a conjunction.

What I mean is, if you follow American English, the conjunction will follow a comma.

And if UK English is what you prefer, then you can easily get away by using conjunctions without a comma.

Take a look at the following examples. Both the variations are correct.

  • UK English: The poster is available in three colours; black, blue and gray.
  • US English: The poster is available in three colors; black, blue, and gray.

Though it is your choice to add or not to add a comma before a conjunction when creating lists, it’s compulsory to follow conjunction by a comma when you use it to connect two different clauses or independent sentences.

For example:

“I know how tough the first day of any job could be, so I assigned him very little work”.

“They were interested in investing in our project, but suddenly they changed their plans”.

“The automatic binding machine has broken down, so it will take them three hours to bind the book”.

However, the punctuation rule can be a little flexible when both the independent clauses are short. In such a case, you can omit to add a comma before a conjunction.

“He couldn’t board his flight because he was late”.

“The fight was tough but he managed to win it”.

“He tried his luck and got the lottery”.

3. Start a sentence with a conjunction

It’s an old school myth that conjunctions are not meant to start a sentence; it is grammatically wrong.

However, modern English allows you to use conjunctions like ‘but’, ‘and’, ‘because’, ‘though’, ‘since’, etc.

This stylistic approach is beneficial to add some freshness in your writing. But (see what I did there?) I would recommend to keep it minimal because too much of this type of sentences can turn your readers off.

Common mistakes while using conjunctions

Since the only function of conjunction is to link words, clauses, or phrases; it’s common to see even native English speakers using wrong conjunctions in their writings.

Here are a few of them and their correct versions so that you don’t repeat these mistakes.

1. Never use two conjunctions to add two clauses

Incorrect: “Though he couldn’t get past the first stage, but he tried hard”.

Correct: “Though he couldn’t get past the first stage, he tried hard”.

Incorrect: “Because he was hungry, so he tried to steal some food from the restaurant”.

Correct: “Because he was hungry, he tried to steal some food from the restaurant”.

Single conjunction is enough to add two words, phrases, or clauses in a sentence. So there’s no need to add another conjunction after you’ve already used one.

2. Starting sentences with ‘no sooner’ and ‘not only’

The Correlative conjunctions ‘no sooner/than’ and ‘not only/but’ usually comes at the beginning of a sentence.

So whenever you start your sentence with a negative word like ‘no sooner’ or ‘not only’, place the auxiliary verb ahead of the subject in the first clause that follows these negative expressions.

For example:

Incorrect: No sooner I had reached the Community Hall than the show started”.

Correct: “No sooner had I reached the Community Hall than the show started”.

Incorrect: Not only I finished today’s assignment, but I have also done half of tomorrow’s work.

Correct: Not only did I finish today’s assignment, but I have also done half of tomorrow’s work.

3. Use of ‘neither/nor’, ‘either/or’

It’s common to see sentences like the one below:

“Neither he is smart, nor dull”.

Most of the writers consider sentences like these as correct, but actually, it is wrong. When using a Correlative Conjunction like ‘either/or’ or ‘neither/nor’, make sure the same type of words is following both the conjunctions.

For example, the above sentence is incorrect because there ‘neither’ is followed by a pronoun ‘he’ whereas ‘nor’ is followed by the adjective ‘dull’.

The correct sentence should be:

“He is neither smart nor dull”. (See, both, ‘neither’ and ‘nor’ are followed by the adjectives ‘smart’ and ‘dull’)

Similarly, write “You can either buy eggs or chicken” instead of “Either you can buy eggs or chicken”.

4. How to use ‘Lest’

Incorrect: Work hard lest you will not fail.

Correct: Work hard lest you’ll fail.

Incorrect: Move fast lest you will not miss your flight.

Incorrect: Move fast lest you will miss your flight.

‘Lest’ means ‘that…not’. So, it’s wrong to use another negative expression ‘not’ in your sentences. Also, ‘should’ is the only auxiliary verb that follows ‘lest’.

5. How to use ‘Unless’

‘Unless’ means ‘if not’ and since it already has one ‘not’ in its meaning, it is useless to use another ‘not’ in the same sentence that begins with ‘unless’.

For example:

Incorrect: “Unless you do not take care of yourself, you’ll fall ill.

Correct: “Unless you take care of yourself, you’ll fall ill.

Incorrect: “Unless he does not defeat his fear of failure, he will never succeed in his life.

Correct: “Unless he defeats his fear of failure, he will never succeed in his life.

6. But in place of And

Incorrect: I went there, and I saw no one.

Correct: I went there, but I saw no one.

Incorrect: The room was crowded, and I got a place to sit comfortably.

Correct: The room was crowded, but I got a place to sit comfortably.

When the second clause contradicts with the first one, we always use but; not and.

7. Starting sentences with ‘Because’

Incorrect: I won’t be present for the board meeting. Because I’m going to Spain for a family vacation.

Correct: I won’t be present for the board meeting, because I’m going to Spain for a family vacation.

I know it contradicts the third rule I mentioned in the previous section – ‘How to use conjunctions correctly’. Sure, you can begin a sentence with a conjunction like ‘because’, but if it comes after the main clause, it should never be separated from it.

Although if you want to start your sentence with ‘because’, you can rephrase your sentence like this:

“Because I’m going to Spain for a family vacation, I won’t be present for the board meeting”.

And finally, that brings us to the end of today’s conjunction class.

In this post, we learned what conjunction is, what are its different types, the three rules to use it precisely, and at last, looked at the giddy mistakes even experienced writers make and how to rectify them.