When studying English grammar you are likely to come across the conjunction, but what is it’s purpose? In this article, we are going to take a look at what exactly a conjunction is and how it can be used within a sentence. We are also going to take a look at some examples of conjunctions being used in a sentence as a way to gain a greater understanding of their function.
What is a Conjunction?
A conjunction is a word which is used to link thoughts and ideas within a sentence. You might think of them as being ‘the glue’ of the phrase. Without the use of a conjunction, you would not be able to express your thoughts and ideas in a manner which flows. Your sentences would be forced into being simple and concise. Let’s take a look at an example. Consider the following sentence.
- The girl is pretty and kind. She has blonde hair with green eyes and she is wearing a blue jacket on top of a white t-shirt.
You can see how the words highlighted in bold (the conjunctions) bring each of the ideas together to create a flowing sentence. Without the use of a conjunction, the wording would be much more different.
- The girl is pretty. The girl is kind. She has blonde hair. She has green eyes. She is wearing a blue jacket. She is wearing a white t-shirt.
This does not sound as audibly appealing and uses far too many words and sentences, making it impractical. It is important to make sure that when you are using conjunctions that you make sure that they are consistent, for example:
- He runs quickly and gracefully. (correct)
- He runs quickly and graceful. (incorrect)
The first sentence is consistent and therefore correct, the second sentence is not.
Conjunctions are Important!
In grammar, English conjunction is a part of speech that connects two words, phrases, or clauses together. You can use a conjunction to link words, phrases, and clauses, as in the following examples:
- The park is empty now, but it will be filled with children after school.
- You can stay on the bus until you reach London.
Using a Conjunction to Start a Sentence
It is a common misconception that a conjunction cannot be used to start a sentence, but as we have seen, a subordinating conjunction can be used at the start of a sentence provided a comma is used to separate the two clauses.
You may also use a coordinating conjunction to begin a sentence. However, it is important to do this sparingly as using too many conjunctions at the start of sentences can make your speech or writing sound weak.
A conjunction is a way of linking together two thoughts or ideas in the same sentence. They are a useful device for avoiding the use of repetitive and choppy, short sentences and cause your speech and writing to flow.
Conjunctions vs. Transitions
Conjunctions can compare and contrast information within a sentence. They can introduce additional information as well as point to examples. Also, conjunctions can show order, sequence, and a relationship between clauses.
There are three types of conjunctions: subordinating, coordinating, and correlative. They connect sentence parts to one another.
Transitions function like conjunctions, but instead of joining clauses, they connect sentences and paragraphs.
Types of Conjunctions
Learn a useful list of conjunctions in English with different types and example sentences. As with various forms of English grammar, there is more than one type of conjunction, we are now going to take a look at each type in a litter more detail.
- Coordinating Conjunctions,
- Correlative Conjunctions, and
- Subordinating Conjunctions.
The coordinating conjunction is a way of joining phrases, clauses and words together which have an equal rank, grammatically speaking. There are many coordinating conjunctions, let’s take a look at some of the most frequently used ones.
When most people think of conjunction, these are the words that will spring to mind. Let’s take a look at some examples of these conjunctions being used within a sentence.
- I would like a hamburger or a chicken burger for my dinner.
- She needed to be somewhere quiet, so she took her bag and went to the park.
- My parents never had much money when I was growing up, but they managed somehow.
It is worth noting that, as we see in the above examples, when a conjunction is being used to join two independent clauses, a comma is used before the conjunction.
A subordinating conjunction can be used to join dependent and independent clauses. This type of conjunction can be used as a way of showing case and effect relationships between two clauses or a contrast, as well as various other relationships which might occur. Let’s now take a look at some of the most frequently used subordinating conjunctions.
Notice that some of the above examples are adverbs-these can commonly function as a subordinating conjunction as a way of linking the two thoughts. A good example of this is the sentence ‘Cinderella could stay at the ball until the clock struck midnight.’ The independent clause, which is the first part of this sentence could be used as a standalone phrase, however the dependent clause cannot and so the use of the conjunction connects it to the first thought and causes it to make sense.
That being said, it is important to remember that when using a subordinating conjunction, it must become a part of the dependent clause, whether that comes before or after the independent clause. Look at the following example where the clauses are switched. The subordinating conjunction still stays with the dependent clause.
- Until the clock struck midnight, Cinderella could stay at the ball.
Let’s look at some further examples of this:
- Before she leaves, ask her to say goodbye
- Ask her to say goodbye before she leaves.
You will notice that when the dependent clause starts the sentence, a comma is used to separate the two clauses.
Common subordinating conjunctions List:
Than, rather than, whether, as much as, whereas, that, whatever, which, whichever, after, as soon as, as long as, before, by the time, now that, once, since, till, until, when, whenever, while, though, although, even though, who, whoever, whom, whomever, whose, where, wherever, if, only if, unless, provided that, assuming that, even if, in case (that), lest, how, as though, as if, because, since, so that, in order (that), that, as …
The correlative conjunction is one which is used in a pair. They are used as a way of relating one sentence to another and one of the golden rules of a correlative conjunction is that they must be equal in a grammatical sense. For example, when using the correlative conjunction of both/and, if a noun comes after the word both, one must also come after the word and.
Examples of correlative conjunctions are as follows:
- not only/but also
- just as/so
- as much/as
- no sooner/than
We are now going to take a look at some examples of correlative conjunctions being used within a sentence.
- I do not like either the blue ones or the red ones.
- Neither my brother nor my sister live with my parents anymore.
- I went not only to China but also to Mongolia.
- I’m not sure whether he will become a teacher or a doctor when he is older.
Common Mistakes with Conjunctions
Knowing how to use conjunctions properly will help you write more varied and complex sentences. Simple conjunction mistakes make your text cumbersome and hard to read. These mistakes will detract from your message and cause your readers to doubt the sincerity behind your text.
To write a confident article, you need to avoid the following missteps:
Using more than one conjunction to join two clauses
In the English language, you do not use two or more conjunctions in a sentence. One is enough to hold any statement with two clauses together.
- Incorrect When I got to her then it rained.
- Correct I got to her then it rained.
The second sentence is less wordy. It flows better, and the meaning is easily understood. In comparison, the first sentence is clunky and does not sound right when read aloud.
When an auxiliary verb begins a sentence the typical word order becomes disrupted. That is to say, the auxiliary verb comes before the subject of the sentence. The following verbs will follow the typical grammatical structure and follow the subject. In addition, an auxiliary verb like unless cannot join another negative in the same clause.
- Incorrect Unless you do not want to endanger the girl, you will stand aside.
- Correct Unless you want to endanger the girl, you will stand aside.
You cannot use not with unless in a sentence clause. It would suggest a double negative because unless implies if…not.
Separating a subordinate conjunction from the main clause
People sometimes mistakenly separate a dependent clause from an independent clause. Generally, this premature separation occurs when a subordinate conjunction starts a sentence. For instance, beginning a sentence with because often causes grammatical issues; especially, for those learning English.
Because new writers confuse dependent clauses with independent ones, teachers often tell their students not to use because to start their sentences. This tactic often leads people to believe that it is wrong to start a sentence with a subordinate clause when it is not. If starting a sentence with because make sure you have an independent clause attached to the first dependent clause.
- Incorrect Because I liked her.
- Correct Because I liked her, I bought her an ice-cream cone.
A comma will separate the dependent clause from the independent. Doing this improves the overall readability of your work.
Wrong relative pronouns usage
You can use a relative pronoun like a conjunction to join clauses. That is an example of a relative pronoun. That refers to the object or subject of the verb that follows. Because of this, that is not often used to replace when or where in a sentence.
The relative pronoun becomes redundant when there is already a subject or object in place. For this reason, you usually use that to replace which or whom but not when and where.
- Incorrect Bold of you to assume that I live.
- Correct Bold of your to assume where I live.
Incorrect relative pronoun usage can result in meaning changes or clumsy sentences.
Not only … but also
Not only but also is an example of a correlative conjunction. That is to say, the conjunction pairs work together to convey meaning. Correlative conjunctions need balance.
The language that follows each part of the conjunction must be parallel. Without balance, your writing becomes tricky to read. Hence, it affects the fluidity of your words.
- Incorrect The girl’s not only smart but also has a propensity to be sullen.
- Correct The girl’s not only smart but also sullen.
In the above example, both sentences have the same meaning, but they have different constructions. The first sentence is not parallel. Hence, the first sentence follows not only with an adjective and but also with a dependent phrase.
In contrast, an adjective follows each part of the correlative conjunction in the second sentence. The two similar components of speech make the sentence balance and your writing stronger.
Commas usage is another sticky area when it comes to correlative conjunctions. Generally, when drafting a sentence, you want to avoid separating correlative conjunctions with a comma; however, specific circumstances allow for an exception to this rule.
Commas can show emphasis, and because of that, the above rule cannot be without some flux. A comma can separate a correlative conjunction if you want to draw attention to a particular clause. For example:
- When sky diving, Charles focuses on not only his equipment, but also his surroundings.
The commas in the sentence above are not necessary. Instead, they represent a stylistic choice that causes you to focus on a particular detail.
It would also be correct to write the sentences in the following way:
- When sky diving, Charles focuses on not only his equipment but also his surroundings.
Answer the following question about conjunctions by circling the correct answer for each statement.
Question #1: I was tired ________ I stayed up late.
Question #2: Before I went to the store because I was out of milk.
A. Correct use of conjunctions
B. Incorrect use of conjunctions
Question #3: She ate not only cookies but also chocolates.
A. Correct use of conjunctions
B. Incorrect use of conjunctions
Question #4: What is a conjunction’s key responsibility?
A. To contrast
B. To join
C. To provide emphasis
Question #5: Nor, but, and yet are examples of this conjunction type?
Question #6: An auxiliary verb appearing at the beginning of a sentence does what?
A. Introduces a comma
B. Changes word order
C. Introduces the need for two conjunctions in one sentence.
Question #7: A subordinating conjunction does what?
A. Joins two independent clauses
B. Joins an independent clause to a dependent one
Question #8: A ___ conjunction works in conjunction pairs?
Question #9: Is her an example of a conjunction?
Question #10: Can conjunctions begin sentences?