Conjunction (grammar)

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In grammar, a conjunction (abbreviated CONJ or CNJ) is a part of speech that connects words, phrases, or clauses that are called the conjuncts of the conjunctions. This definition may overlap with that of other parts of speech, so what constitutes a "conjunction" must be defined for each language. In English, a given word may have several senses, being either a preposition or a conjunction depending on the syntax of the sentence. For example, after is a preposition in "he left after the fight", but it is a conjunction in "he left after they fought". In general, a conjunction is an invariable (non-inflected) grammatical particle and it may or may not stand between the items conjoined.

The definition of conjunction may also be extended to idiomatic phrases that behave as a unit with the same function, e.g. "as well as", "provided that".

A simple literary example of a conjunction is: "the truth of nature, and the power of giving interest" (Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Biographia Literaria).[1]

A conjunction may be placed at the beginning of a sentence:[2] "But some superstition about the practice persists."[3]

Coordinating conjunctionsEdit

Coordinating conjunctions, also called coordinators, are conjunctions that join, or coordinate, two or more items (such as words, main clauses, or sentences) of equal syntactic importance. In English, the mnemonic acronym FANBOYS can be used to remember the coordinators for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.[4] These are not the only coordinating conjunctions; various others are used, including[5]: ch. 9 [6]: p. 171  "and nor" (British), "but nor" (British), "or nor"[dubious ] (British), "neither" ("They don't gamble, neither do they smoke"), "no more" ("They don't gamble, no more do they smoke"), and "only" ("I would go, only I don't have time"). Types of coordinating conjunctions include cumulative conjunctions, adversative conjunctions, alternative conjunctions, and illative conjunctions.[7]

Here are some examples of coordinating conjunctions in English and what they do:

  • For – an illative (i.e. inferential), presents rationale ("They do not gamble or smoke, for they are ascetics.")
  • And – a cumulative, adds non-contrasting item(s) or idea(s) ("They gamble, and they smoke.")
  • Nor – presents an alternative non-contrasting (also negative) idea ("They do not gamble, nor do they smoke.")
  • But – an adversative, presents a contrast or exception ("They gamble, but they don't smoke.")
  • Or – presents an alternative non-contrasting item or idea ("Every day they gamble, or they smoke.")
  • Yet – an adversative, presents a strong contrast or exception ("They gamble, yet they don't smoke.")
  • So – an illative (i.e. inferential), presents a consequence ("He gambled well last night, so he smoked a cigar to celebrate.")

Only and, or, nor are actual coordinating logical operators connecting atomic propositions or syntactic multiple units of the same type (subject, objects, predicative, attributive expressions, etc.) within a sentence. The cause and consequence (illative) conjunctions are pseudocoordinators, being expressible as antecedent or consequent to logical implications or grammatically as subordinate conditional clauses.

Correlative conjunctionsEdit

Correlative conjunctions work in pairs to join words and groups of words of equal weight in a sentence. There are many different pairs of correlative conjunctions:

  • either...or
  • not only...but (also)
  • neither...nor
  • both...and
  • whether...or
  • just
  • the...the
  • as
  • no sooner...than
  • rather...than
  • not...but rather


  • You either do your work or prepare for a trip to the office. (Either do or prepare)
  • He is not only handsome but also brilliant. (Not only A but also B)
  • Neither the basketball team nor the football team is doing well.
  • Both the cross country team and the swimming team are doing well.
  • You must decide whether you stay or you go.
  • Just as many Americans love basketball, so many Canadians love ice hockey.
  • The more you practice dribbling, the better you will be at it.
  • Football is as fast as hockey (is (fast)).
  • Football is as much an addiction as it is a sport.
  • No sooner did she learn to ski than the snow began to thaw.
  • I would rather swim than surf.
  • He donated money not to those in need, but rather to those who would benefit him.

Conjunctions of timeEdit


after We'll do that after you do this.
as long as That's fine as long as you agree to our conditions.
as soon as We'll get to that as soon as we finish this.
by the time He had left by the time you arrived.
long before We'll be gone long before you arrive.
now that We can get going now that they have left.
once We'll have less to worry about once the boss leaves.
since We haven't been able to upload our work since the network went down.
till Please hold on till the server reboots.
until We are waiting until you send us the confirmation.
when They can do what they want when they want.
whenever There is a good chance of rain whenever there are clouds in the sky.
while I really appreciate you waiting while I finish up.

Subordinating conjunctionsEdit

Subordinating conjunctions, also called subordinators, are conjunctions that join an independent clause and a dependent clause, and also introduce adverb clauses. The most common subordinating conjunctions in the English language include after, although, as, as far as, as if, as long as, as soon as, as though, because, before, even if, even though, every time, if, in order that, since, so, so that, than, that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, wherever, and while.[8]

Complementizers can be considered to be special subordinating conjunctions that introduce complement clauses: e.g. "I wonder whether he'll be late. I hope that he'll be on time". Some subordinating conjunctions, when used to introduce a phrase instead of a full clause, become prepositions with identical meanings.

The subordinating conjunction performs two important functions within a sentence: illustrating the importance of the independent clause and providing a transition between two ideas in the same sentence by indicating a time, place, or cause and therefore affecting the relationship between the clauses.[9]

In many verb-final languages, subordinate clauses must precede the main clause on which they depend. The equivalents to the subordinating conjunctions of non-verb-final languages such as English are either

Such languages often lack conjunctions as a part of speech, because:

  • the form of the verb used is formally nominalised and cannot occur in an independent clause
  • the clause-final conjunction or suffix attached to the verb is a marker of case and is also used in nouns to indicate certain functions. In this sense, the subordinate clauses of these languages have much in common with postpositional phrases.

In other West Germanic languages like German and Dutch, the word order after a subordinating conjunction is different from that in an independent clause, e.g. in Dutch want ("for") is coordinating, but omdat ("because") is subordinating. The clause after the coordinating conjunction has normal word order, but the clause after the subordinating conjunction has verb-final word order. Compare:

Hij gaat naar huis, want hij is ziek. ("He goes home, for he is ill.")
Hij gaat naar huis, omdat hij ziek is. ("He goes home because he is ill.")

Similarly, in German, "denn" (for) is coordinating, but "weil" (because) is subordinating:

Er geht nach Hause, denn er ist krank. ("He goes home, for he is ill.")
Er geht nach Hause, weil er krank ist. ("He goes home, because he is ill.")

Starting a sentenceEdit

It is now generally agreed that a sentence may begin with a coordinating conjunction like and,[11] but,[12] or yet.[13] However, there has been a mistaken belief in some sort of prohibition, or what Follett's Modern American Usage called a "supposed rule without foundation" and a "prejudice [that] lingers from a bygone time" that English sentences should not start with conjunctions.[14]

People associate this mistaken belief with their early school days. One conjecture is that it results from young children's being taught to avoid simple sentences starting with and and are encouraged to use more complex structures with subordinating conjunctions.[11] In the words of Bryan A. Garner, the "widespread belief ... that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but, or so has no historical or grammatical foundation",[15] and good writers have frequently started sentences with conjunctions.[14]

There is also a misleading guideline that a sentence should never begin with because. Because is a subordinating conjunction and introduces a dependent clause. It may start a sentence when the main clause follows the dependent clause.[16]


  • "And now we have Facebook and Twitter and Wordpress and Tumblr and all those other platforms that take our daily doings and transform them into media."[17]
  • "So any modern editor who is not paranoid is a fool".[18]
  • "And strikes are protected globally, existing in many of the countries with labour laws outside the Wagner Act model."[19]

In other languagesEdit


In Warlpiri, a Pama-Nyungan language spoken in Australia, conjunctions function differently from English or other Germanic languages. In unembedded contexts, Warlpiri uses the coordinator manu, such that P manu Q translates to "P and Q": Cecilia manu Gloriapala yanu tawunu kurra means "Cecilia and Gloria went to town", but in the negative contexts, P manu Q translates to "neither P nor Q", such that kularnangku yinyi rampaku manu loli means "I won't give you cookies or lollipops", as kularnanagku is a form of the Warlpiri negative marker.[20]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Greenblatt, Stephen (2006). The Norton Anthology of British Literature, 8th Ed. Vol. D. New York: Norton. p. 478.
  2. ^ Richard Nordquist. "Is It Wrong to Begin a Sentence with 'But'?". Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  3. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2001). Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises. The University of Chicago Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-226-28418-2.: "the idea that it is poor grammar to begin a sentence with And or But" is "nonsense baggage that so many writers lug around".
  4. ^ Paul; Adams, Michael (2009). How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction (2nd ed.). New York: Pearson Longman. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-205-60550-7.
  5. ^ John, Algeo (2006). British or American English? A Handbook of Word and Grammar Patterns. Cambridge Univ. Press.
  6. ^ Burchfield, R. W., ed. (1996). Fowler's Modern English Usage (3rd ed.). ISBN 978-0-19-869126-6.
  7. ^ "Kinds of co-ordinating conjunctions". 2010-08-25.
  8. ^ "Subordinating Conjunctions". 18 May 2017.
  9. ^ "What are Subordinating Conjunctions?". Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  10. ^ Dryer, Matthew S. (2005). "Order of adverbial subordinator and clause". In Haspelmath, Martin; Dryer, Matthew S.; Gil, David; Comrie, Bernard (eds.). The World Atlas of Language Structures. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-199-25591-1.
  11. ^ a b Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage. Penguin. 2002. p. 69. ISBN 9780877796336.
  12. ^ Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage. Penguin. 2002. p. 151. ISBN 9780877796336.
  13. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2016). Garner's Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. p. 979. ISBN 978-0-19-049148-2.
  14. ^ a b Garner, Bryan A. (2016). Garner's Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-19-049148-2.
  15. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2010). "Grammar and Usage". The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-226-10420-1.
  16. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2016). Garner's Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-19-049148-2.
  17. ^ "An Optimist's Guide to Political Correctness". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  18. ^ "The case for liberal optimism". The Economist. 2015-01-31. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  19. ^ "Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan - SCC Cases (Lexum)". January 2001. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  20. ^ Bowler (May 31, 2014). "Conjunction and disjunction in a language without 'and'": 1–3. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

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