Coordinating conjunctions

(Using coordinating conjunctions and correlative pairs)

Table of contents – coordinating conjunctions

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of coordinating conjunctions
  2. Multi-part conjunctions and correlative pairs
  3. Further explanations and exercises

When are coordinating conjunctions used in English?

English grammar also divides conjunctions or connectives into groups according to their use and meaning. One category of these is the coordinating conjunctions, which combine information of equal importance in the sentence (such as individual words or parts of a clause) or even entire sentences. Equal means that the items are syntactically equivalent. Compare:

  • Conjunctions that are frequently used in English are ‘and, but, or, for, so, yet’. Some details about their meaning with example sentences:
    • and’ connects statements that are not in opposition (contradiction) to each other:
      • “Maria does a lot of sports, and she plays the piano.”
        • Note: There is usually a comma before this type of ‘and’ (see comma before ‘and’ for details about the rules).
    • but’ expresses something to the contrary or an exception:
      • “Daniel knows a lot about cars, but he doesn’t know anything about motorbikes.”
    • or’ stands for alternatives:
      • “I would like to have some coffee, or you could offer me a piece of cake.”
    • for’ is only rarely a conjunction too (but mostly a preposition) – which happens especially in literature. Is this the case, it is used for justifications or reasons. However, it sounds rather highbrow and is quite formal:
      • “He didn’t get any trouble, for they understood his problem.”
    • so’ (as a synonym for ‘consequently’) is needed for consequences:
      • “We had missed the last bus, so we had to walk home.”
    • yet’ may also be employed as a connective word but must not be confused with the adverb at the end of the sentence (see the detailed explanation on the adverb ‘yet’):
      • “They gave us all the information, and yet we didn’t know what to do.”
        • Like in this statement, ‘yet’ is often combined with ‘and’ in a sentence.

Which are the multi-part conjunctions and correlative pairs in English?

In addition to the ones that consist of single words, English also offers word combinations or multi-part conjunctions. These related words always appear together in their meaning and cannot be changed either. As many of them consist of exactly two words, they are called correlative pairs. Like the individual words mentioned above, they connect sentences, parts of sentences, or expressions of equal importance. Now, compare the most critical correlative conjunctions in examples and what they signify:

  • asas’ is needed to make comparisons (see comparisons with adjectives and adverbs for a description):
    • “The new building is as high as the old one.”
      • Note that ‘as/as’ stands within a phrase.
  • thethe’ occurs with comparative sentences or clauses (Attention: Do not confuse this type of ‘the’ with the article.):
    • The more you study, the better your exam will be.”
      • Note here too that ‘the/the’ combines two clauses.
  • bothand’ combines two indications that are not contradictory:
    • Both Harold and his ex-girlfriend are coming to my birthday party.”
  • eitheror’ and ‘neithernor’; find the detailed usage in the explanation of ‘either/or’ and ‘neither/nor’:
    • “You can finish the task either today or tomorrow.”
  • not onlybut also:
    • “My new job is not only well-paid but also very interesting.”
  • whetheror:
    • Whether you like it or not, I’m leaving.”
  • ratherthan:
    • “I’d rather have another glass of wine with you than going home now, but I have to get up early tomorrow.”

Further explanations related to the ‘Coordinating conjunctions’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Using coordinating conjunctions and correlative pairs in English’ and could be interesting too: