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Explaining Coordinating Conjunctions
by Dinah Crockett
This issue of Grammatically Correct is the first in a series of three issues that explore conjunctions. The most commonly known conjunctions are and, but, and or; however, there are actually two categories of conjunctions: coordinating and subordinating. In addition, correlative conjunctions exist as a sub-category of coordinating conjunctions. Each category functions differently in the way its conjunctions connect words, phrases, or clauses. This series of grammar tips is designed to provide the reader with a more detailed explanation of conjunctions and how they function. Specifically, this issue of Grammatically Correct will explore coordinating conjunctions.
Before we discuss function, let’s briefly review the seven conjunctions that are classified as coordinating. The acronym FANBOYS often helps people remember these words: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. While all coordinating conjunctions are used to connect words, phrases, or clauses, not all conjunctions convey similar meaning. For example, and denotes an equal relationship between similar ideas/things while but denotes a contrast between ideas/things.
Coordinating conjunctions are used to join equivalent elements. This means that coordinating conjunctions can be used to connect two or more independent clauses (see example 1). They can also be used to connect smaller groups of words (see example 2).
Example 1: I am going to the mall, and Christy is going to the grocery store.
Example 2: Would you prefer to go to the mall or to the movies?
The function of each coordinating conjunction is explained below. Keep in mind that these functions, while valid most of the time, may change depending on the writer’s intent or sentence structure.
For: Can be used to replace because
Example: Sherry walked to school this morning, for her car battery was dead.
And: Joins two similar phrases or words (indicates addition)
Example: John visited Melbourne, Australia and the nearby country of New Zealand last year.
Nor: Joins two negative alternatives
Example: I am not a genius nor am I an idiot.
When using nor as a coordinating conjunction, the first half of the sentence must be negative (I am not a genius). Note, too, that the second half must have the subject/verb order inverted. However, do not use the neither…nor combination, as this combination makes up a correlative, rather than coordinating, conjunction.
But: Joins two contrasting ideas
Example: David dislikes Danish pastry but loves donuts.
Or: Joins two alternative ideas
Example: Do you prefer live music or pre-recorded music?
Yet: Can be used to replace but
Example: My cat Shadow is fond of catnip toys, yet he refuses to eat catnip treats.
So: Shows that the second idea is the result of the first
Example: The veterinarian suggested that dry cat food could be the cause of my cat’s weight problems, so now Fluffy is given wet food.
As the list above indicates, some conjunctions fall into the same category: For example, yet and but are both coordinating conjunctions that demonstrate contrasting ideas and may be used interchangeably in many cases.
Conjunction: A word that joins together words, phrases, or clauses. For example, and, but, or, when, since, if, after, because, etc.
Coordinating conjunction: A conjunction that joins grammatically similar words, phrases, or clauses to create a compound phrase or clause. For example, Dogs and cats rarely get along well; I like dogs, and I like cats.
|Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by Dinah Crockett
In addition to our website, this week we recommend the Daily Grammar website. Daily grammar offers a free email subscription to their daily grammar lesson or you can browse through free grammar lesson archives. Visit daily grammar at http://www.dailygrammar.com.
|Test Your Knowledge
by Dinah Crockett
Test your understanding of coordinating conjunctions and their function by filling in the blanks in the sentences below with one of the coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or, for, nor, but, yet, so. In some cases, there may be more than one correct choice.
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