Conjunctions — Rules & Academic Guide with Examples

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Conjunctions-Definition

Constructing effective sentences for your essays or other types of writing is essential to ensure the audience easily understands you. Many parts make up effective sentences, one of which is conjunctions.1

This article will discuss conjunctions, the most frequently asked questions regarding these words, the main types of conjunctions, and how to use them.

Conjunctions — In a Nutshell

After you’ve learned about conjunctions, you can effectively use these words to turn simple sentences into easier-to-understand complex sentences. You can achieve this by:

  • Combining the three types of conjunctions, namely: coordinating, correlative, and subordinating
  • Maintaining a similar grammatical form for all the components in a sentence
  • Avoiding starting sentences with conjunctions if you’re a novice

Definition: Conjunctions

Conjunctions are joining words that connect phrases, other words, and clauses to make complete sentences.2

The English language has numerous joining words, but the most common ones include: when, and, because, or, if, and for.

Examples of these words in sentences include:

  • She had to look for other options because she had damaged the vessel.
  • The tours in Texas and Boston were postponed due to her illness.
  • The company offered neither refunds nor an explanation as to why their products failed, causing much disappointment to their customers.

Types of conjunctions

There are three major types of conjunctions, as explained below:

Conjunctions types and examples

Correlative conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are coupled—meaning they work in pairs to connect grammatically equal elements of a sentence.

Some common correlative pairs include both & and, either & or, not only & but also, and neither & nor. You don’t have to place a comma when using correlative conjunctions.

Example:

  • Substance abuse leads to both physical dependence and psychological addiction.

Use a parallel structure for both sentence elements when using correlative conjunctions. This means the two components should have a similar grammatical form.

Example:

Incorrect

  • He planned to establish an online data service by collecting either online surveys or personal interviews.

Correct

  • He planned to establish an online data service company by collecting either online surveys or conducting personal interviews.

Coordinating conjunctions

There are only seven of these words in English, and they join grammatically equal items like two phrases, words, or independent clauses. These joining words appear between the items they’re linking.

As a student, you could use the mnemonic FANBOYS to memorize them: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

Coordinating conjunctions connect two verbs, adjectives, phrases, nouns, or any other type of word.

Note: You should not use a comma when joining two verbs, adjectives, nouns, or different word types.

Examples:

  • I’m not too fond of traveling or yoga.
  • Do you love cats or dogs?
  • She was wise but indecisive.

Examples of phrases that use coordinating conjunctions:

  • She bit her tongue and cried vehemently.
  • You can find him in the cafeteria or at the local community center.

A clause has, in the least, a subject and a verb. An independent clause is a clause that stands on its own and still creates a complete thought.

When a coordinating conjunction joins two independent clauses, place a comma before it.

Example:

  • Today, Smith and Industries is the leading industrial manufacturer, yet most people don’t know of its existence.

Also, notice that these two sentences can still make sense alone. That is:

  • Today, Smith and Industries is the leading industrial manufacturer.
  • Most people don’t know of its existence.

Subordinating conjunctions

These words are mainly used to introduce dependent clauses when using words like: until, because, although, if, while, and since.

Dependent or subordinate clauses are words that contain a subject and a verb, but can’t make a complete sentence on their own.3

For this reason, dependent clauses must have an independent clause to make sense.

Sentence type Example
Dependent clause Because I had work to do the next morning.
Independent clause I had to sleep early.
Complete sentence I had to sleep early because I had work to do the next morning.

You may have noticed that you don’t place a comma when the subordinating conjunction follows after an independent clause.

However, it would help to put a comma after the dependent clause when the subordinating conjunction begins a sentence.

Example:

  • Because I had work to do the next morning, I had to sleep early.

Subordinating conjunctions help define the type of relationships between the clauses. Here are some of these words and the relationships they help express:

Relationship Conjunctions
Cause and effect as, since, because
Time after, before, once, while, whenever, since, when
Place where, wherever
Condition in case, if, unless
Contrast though, although, whereas

Starting a sentence with a conjunction

Novice authors are often advised not to begin sentences using conjunctions. However, you can start a sentence using joining words to indicate contrast, create emphasis, and more.

Also, note that this usage is widely accepted in literary and popular language, but is avoided in academic writing.

Additionally, subordinating conjunction may start a sentence only if the independent clause follows the dependent clause.

Example:

  • Until you understand your employees, your company may likely never achieve maximum productivity.

A dependent clause is a sentence fragment; you should avoid it in academic writing.

Example:

  • You understand your employees

This is a sentence fragment.

FAQs

These words are vital because they connect complex ideas into simple-structured sentences.

Without these words, you would likely express your complex thoughts using multiple simple sentences, which might be ineffective; for example:

  • I don’t like exercising.
  • I like eating.
  • I don’t like the weight I’m gaining.

In most cases, authors use these words to show the contrast between ideas and create a combination of sentence styles.4

Yes, however, one must be a subordinating conjunction (although, after, because, since, etc.) and the other a coordinating conjunction (yet, so, nor, but, etc.).

For example:

  • She slipped and fell into the waters, but not because she was intoxicated.

Words like in brief, that is, to sum up, or to put it in another way may summarize or reword information. For example:

  • Well, in brief, what does your article entail?

Sources

1 Walden University. “Definition and Examples of Basic Sentence Elements.” Accessed September 05, 2022. https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/grammar/sentencestructure.

2 Writing Explained. “What is a Phrase? Definition, Examples of English Phrases.” Accessed September 05, 2022. https://writingexplained.org/grammar-dictionary/phrase.

3 Cambridge Dictionary. “Clause.” Accessed September 05, 2022. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/clause.

4 MacPháidín Library. “Tutoring Services: Sentence Style.” August 22, 2022. https://libguides.stonehill.edu/c.php?g=16676&p=92720.