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A conjunction is a word that is used to connect sentences, clauses and phrases. With the help of conjunctions, you can vary the length of sentences in your writing, which will make your writing more interesting and easier to read.

Conjunctions come in three varieties: coordinating, subordinating, and correlative. Each type of conjunction serves a different purpose.

Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are the most common conjunctions. They are used to join equals -- equal sentences, equal phrases, and equal single words. When using coordinating conjunctions, the resulting sentence is called a compound sentence. The main coordinating conjunctions are

and, but, or, nor, so, for, yet.
Subordinating Conjunctions

The second type of conjunction is the subordinating conjunction. Subordinating conjunctions are used to join one subject-verb combination to another subject-verb combination; however, the conjunction makes one part subordinate to, or dependant upon, the other. So, a sentence which contains a subordinating conjunction will always have two clauses, one dependant clause and one indepedant clause. The dependant clause will always begin with a subordinating conjunction. When using subordinating conjunctions, the resulting sentence is called a complex sentence. The table below contains a list of subordinating conjunctions.

Subordination Conjunctions
afterbeforeprovided thatwhen
althougheven ifsincewhenever
asforso thatwhere
as ifhowthanwhereever
as soon asifthatwhether
as thoughin case thatunlesswhile
becausein order thatuntilwhy

You may have noticed that both lists of conjunctions contain some prepositions. When functioning as coordinating conjunctions, these prepositions are used to create compound sentences. When functioning as subordinating conjunctions, they are used to create complex sentences. When they are not being used to create compound or complex sentences, they function as prepositions.

Correlative Conjunctions

The third and last type of conjunction is the correlative conjunction. Like coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions are used to join equal words, phrases and clauses. Unlike coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions always come in pairs with one conjunction before one part of the element being joined and the other before the other part. For example;

If you want to be successful you must be not only fast but also careful.

The main correlative conjunctions are

(not only/but also), (either/or), (neither/nor), (both/and).

Correlative conjunctions may join sentence elements of any kind; for example:


Both Sally and Beth are going to the theater.


He was neither tall nor handsome.


The work was done not only carelessly but also thoughtlessly.

Prepositional Phrases

Meet me either in front of the post office or beside the bank.


Jim left his wife either because he is stupid or because he fell in love with another woman.

A stated above, correlative conjunctions are like coordinating conjunctions in their use and function. In fact, the meaning of a sentence is usually the same whether a correlative or a coordinating conjunction is used. The main reason for using a correlative conjuntion is to emphasize the fact that there are two ideas in the sentence. Compare the following two sentences.

The mouse is under the chair or behind the sofa.

The mouse is either under the chair or behind the sofa.

The main difference between the two preceeding sentences is emphasis. In the sentence, 'The mouse is either under the chair or behind the sofa.', the emphasis is on the word either, which draws attention to the fact that there are two ideas in the sentence.

Get more practice with compound sentences.

Get more practice with complex sentences.