Without conjunctions, you would only be able to express your thoughts and complex ideas through short, simplistic sentences:
- I like hamburgers.
- I like hotdogs.
- I don't like pizza.
Wouldn't these sentences sound a whole lot better if they were presented as a single idea? For example:
- I like hamburgers and hotdogs, but I don’t like pizza.
Mastering conjunctions can add a lot of variety to your writing as they allow you to create sentences with different styles and meanings. For today's English grammar lesson, we are going to talk about conjunctions - the definition, the many different types, and how you can use them in a sentence.
What is a Conjunction?
In English grammar, a conjunction is a part of speech that links words, phrases, and clauses. Conjunctions will help you form elegant and flowing prose while avoiding the incoherence of single idea sentences.
Something to keep in mind when using conjunctions is that the phrases you're joining must have the same parallel structure. The definition of “parallel structure” means using the same pattern of words to show that two or more words or ideas have equal grammatical importance.
- Correct → John likes hiking, camping, and riding a bike.
- Incorrect → John likes hiking, camping, and to ride a bike.
What Does a Conjunction Do?
As previously mentioned, conjunctions connect two sentences, clauses, or words. In speech, we tend to use conjunctions without even realizing it. In writing, we will often incorporate a conjunction when connecting ideas (i.e., rather than begin a new sentence).
Once you have mastered the proper use of conjunctions, one of the many benefits is that your blog writing will become much more natural with respect to rhythm and flow. Conversely, the improper use of conjunctions has the potential to turn your blog content into a choppy and disjointed mess.
Types of Conjunctions
The best way to understand conjunctions and how they're used is to learn the different conjunctions types.
There are three conjunction types:
- Coordinating conjunctions
- Subordinating conjunctions
- Correlative conjunctions
Note that while there's a fourth category called conjunctive adverbs, these conjunctions are really adverbs that act as connectors. As we highlighted in our recent piece on season capitalization rules, English language grammar is rife with exceptions, and conjunctions are no different.
The primary role of a coordinating conjunction is to connect or "coordinate" two sentence elements with equal grammatical rank. Think of joining words with words, phrases with phrases, clauses with clauses, and so on.
A quick rule for using a coordinating conjunction: be sure to place it in between words or a group of words, not at the beginning or end of a sentence.
Common Coordinating Conjunctions
There are seven coordinating words in total:
Amusingly, these conjunctions form a simple mnemonic that should help you recall them:
Be careful not to get carried away, too many coordinating conjunctions can lead to run-on sentences.
Examples of Coordinating Conjunctions in a Sentence
- I want a burger or pizza for lunch.
- Martha likes going to the beach and camping.
- I can drive you to the grocery store, but not to the mall.
Correlative conjunctions come in pairs, and they connect words or phrases that are equally important within a sentence. This relationship between the two elements can signify either matching or contrasting ideas.
Common Correlative Conjunctions
Below are some of the most common pairs of correlative words:
- not only/but also
Examples of Correlative Conjunctions in a Sentence
When using correlative conjunction, you should place the correlative words immediately before the words you want to connect. Here are some examples:
- You can either take it or leave it.
- Not only am I done washing the dishes, but I'm also finished cleaning my room.
- Both my father and sister are doctors.
Subordinating conjunctions connect dependent and independent clauses. A subordinating conjunction can signify a relationship between the two clauses - i.e., it can be a contrast or a cause-and-effect relationship between two statements or ideas.
Common Subordinating Conjunctions
Here's another fun mnemonic to make this list of subordinating conjunctions easy to remember - ON A WHITE BUS:
- O = once, only if
- N = now that
- A = as, although, after
- W = while, when, whereas, whenever, wherever, whether
- H = how
- I = if, in case, in order to, in the event that
- T = though
- E = even if, even though
- B = because, before
- U = unless, until
- S = so, so that, since, supposing
Examples of Subordinating Conjunctions in a Sentence
Below are a few examples of how to use a subordinating conjunction:
- Because it was raining, we had to cancel our field trip.
- My room was a mess after leaving the window open last night.
- Unless I get over my fear of heights, I'll never become a pilot.
As mentioned earlier, conjunctive adverbs are, in fact, adverbs. However, they function as connectors, so we decided to include them on our list. A conjunctive adverb's primary job is to signify a transition or relationship between two separate parts of a sentence.
Common Conjunctive Adverbs
Below are some frequently-used conjunctive adverbs:
- After all
Examples of Conjunctive Adverbs in a Sentence
Note that a semicolon or period should come before a conjunctive adverb and a comma after. Check out these examples:
- Daniel is an excellent guitarist; however, he rarely practices.
- The heavy snow covered the streets; therefore, many people were stranded.
- I never liked eating vegetables. Nevertheless, I ask my kids to eat them.
Correctly Connect Your Words, Phrases, and Clauses With Conjunctions
Knowing the different types of conjunctions is an essential skill for any aspiring content writer. Proper usage of conjunctions is a tricky subject, and like most grammar rules, mastery requires practice. Be sure to pay close attention to sentence structure and clauses, and before you know it, you will be connecting ideas like a pro.
One final note. If you want to make sure that you're using conjunctions properly at all times, we highly recommend the tool Grammarly. It’s an excellent tool/resource for learning conjunctions as well as other important rules of English grammar.