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In grammar, a conjunction (abbreviated conj or cnj) is a part of speech that connects two words, phrases or clauses together. This definition may overlap with that of other parts of speech, so what constitutes a "conjunction" should be defined for each language. In general, a conjunction is an invariable grammatical particle, and it may or may not stand between the items it conjoins.

The definition can also be extended to idiomatic phrases that behave as a unit with the same function as a single-word conjunction (as well as, provided that, etc.).


Coordinating conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions, also called coordinators, are conjunctions that join two or more items of equal syntactic importance. The mnemonic acronym FANBOYS should not be used to remember the coordinators. It is often stated that the seven words for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so are the only coordinating conjunctions; however, for, so, and yet are not co-ordinating conjunctions, and various others are used, including whilst, now, and (at least in British English) and nor and but nor.[1]

Here is a quick precis of some of the co-ordinating conjunctions in English:

  • and: used to connect words, phrases, or clauses
  • but: indicates a contrast or exception
  • or: presents opinions, alternates, or substitutes for ideas of equal importance
  • nor: presents an alternate negative idea

Correlative conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are pairs of conjunctions that work together to coordinate two items. English examples include both…and, [n]either…[n]or, and not [only]…but [also], either... or, whether... or.


Either you do your work, or prepare for a trip to the office.

• Not only is he handsome, but he is also brilliant

Neither the basketball team, nor the football team is doing well

Both the cross country team and the swimming team are doing well

• Whether you choose to stay, or go is your decision.

Either you get A's, or you do not go to school.

Subordinating conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions, also called subordinators, are conjunctions that introduce a dependent clause. The most common subordinating conjunctions in the English language include the following: after, although, as much as, as long as, as soon as, because, before, if, in order that, lest, since, so that, than, that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, wherever, whether, and while. Complementizers can be considered to be special subordinating conjunctions that introduce complement clauses (e.g., "I wonder whether he'll be late. I hope that he'll be on time"). Some subordinating conjunctions (although, before, until, while), when used to introduce a phrase instead of a full clause, become prepositions with identical meanings.

In many verb-final languages, subordinate clauses must precede the main clause on which they depend. the conjunction comes from the Latin root to intervene. The equivalents to the subordinating conjunctions of non-verb-final languages such as English are either

Such languages in fact often lack conjunctions as a part of speech because:

  1. the form of the verb used is formally nominalised and cannot occur in an independent clause
  2. the clause-final conjunction or suffix attached to the verb is actually formally a marker of case and is also used on nouns to indicate certain functions. In this sense, the subordinate clauses of these languages have much in common with postpositional phrases.

In other West-Germanic languages like German or Dutch, the word order after a subordinating conjunction is different from the one in an independent clause, e.g. in Dutch want (for) is coordinating, but omdat (because) is subordinating. Compare:

Hij gaat naar huis, want hij is ziek. -- He goes home, for he is ill.
Hij gaat naar huis, omdat hij ziek is. -- He goes home because he is ill.

See also


  1. ^ Algeo, John, Internat. Jrnl Lexicography, 1988, cited in Fowler's Modern English Usage, 3rd edition, ed. R. W Burchfield
  2. ^ Dryer, Matthew S. 2005. "Order of adverbial subordinator and clause". In The World Atlas of Language Structures, edited by Martin Haspelmath, Matthew S. Dryer, David Gil, and Bernard Comrie. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199255911


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