English Grammar 101: Conjunctions

background image 418

A conjunction joins words and groups of words.

There are two classes of conjunction: co-ordinate or coordinating and subordinate or subordinating.

Co-ordinate conjunctions: and, but, either…or, neither…nor.

Subordinate conjunctions: that, as, after, before, since, when, where, unless, if.

Mother and Father are driving me to New Orleans. (and is a coordinate conjunction joining words of equal significance in the sentence.

I painted the walls but Jack painted the woodwork. (but is a coordinate conjunction joining clauses of equal significance in the sentence. Either clause could stand alone as a sentence.)

Since you can’t get away, we’ll go without you.
(Since is a subordinate conjunction joining a less important thought to a more important thought. The main clause, we’ll go without you, can stand alone as a complete thought. The subordinate clause, Since you can’t get away, is an incomplete thought. It is dependent upon the main clause for meaning.)

NOTE: The relative pronouns who, whom, which, and that are used in the same way that subordinate conjunctions are. The difference is that the relative pronouns serve three purposes at once:

1) they stand for a noun in the main clause
2) they connect the clauses
3) they serve as a subject or object word in the subordinate clause:

He is the man who invented the hula hoop. (who stands for man and is the subject of invented)

Charles is the boy whom the other children tease. (whom stands for boy and is the object of tease)

Give me the piece of string that is waxed. (that stands for string and is the subject of is waxed)

There goes the horse which won the Derby. (which refers to horse and is the subject of won)

The possessive adjective whose can also be used to join clauses:
That’s the bird whose plumage I admire. (whose refers to bird and describes plumage)

Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!

You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!

Each newsletter contains a writing tip, word of the day, and exercise!

You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!

19 thoughts on “English Grammar 101: Conjunctions”

  1. I would like to understand the use of commas and coordinating conjunctions. In your example sentence “I painted the walls but Jack painted the woodwork” no comma is used to connect the clauses. Why didn’t you use the comma in this example?

  2. “I waited for the train when I saw some flashing lights.” Is this sentence correct or not. If not than explain why.

  3. Abida,
    The sentence is incorrect. One action was already in progress when the second action occurred. You could say:

    *I was waiting for the train when I saw some flashing lights.*
    *While I was waiting for the train, I saw some flashing lights.*

  4. Linnea,
    You are correct to question the omission of the comma in that sentence.

    The rule is to place a comma before the conjunction “but.” Considering the nature of the post and this site, I should have put it in.

    In practice–and I believe many writers do this–I omit the comma when the clauses are short.

    Thanks for the comment.

  5. In concern with the question asked by ‘Abida’ at 9:17 on October 06, 2009.

    ‘I waited for the train when I saw some flashing lights’. Is this sentence correct or not? by Abida
    Doesn’t this sentence mean that ‘On seeing the flasing lights, I waited for the train’?
    Send your comment please.

  6. How can I differentiate conjunctions from prepositions or adverbs when they join sentences ? Please , could you recommend me something to read on this subject?

  7. Are both the following sentences correct ?
    I not only bought the vegetables, but I also cooked them.
    I didn’t only buy the vegetables,but I also cooked them.

  8. To my mind,I have already expressed I wanted to. 2. I expressed to join with you. 3. I expressed my doubt whether they are any
    conditions. There is nothing more in my mind.
    thank you,

  9. “On coming there i saw no other man but his enemy.” and”It will not be long till the rains set in”Are these sentences correct or not. If not please correct them!

  10. I have just discovered your wonderful site whilst checking on the correct use of ‘different from’ (correct) and ‘different to’ (incorrect).
    As an academic working in literature and English for some thirty years, I am becoming quite demented at the incorrect usage of written and spoken English. Not, I might add, because people who should know better are making ugly errors, but because younger academics, especially in linguistics, are telling me that I have got it wrong. Now we have ‘world Englishes’! So what have I been doing for most of my life?

    And, by the way, the OED, yes, the OED lists ‘different to’ as the correct version! I was also excited to find that Brian of 2010 gave the etymological explanation so clearly.

    I further wanted some ‘proof’ (being a PhD with thirty years experience in English is not enough) that one should speak of ‘the boy whom I saw’ not ‘the boy who I saw. As an IELTS examiner in Speaking I have been reprimanded for ‘changing the wording’ of questions; I used ‘whom’, correctly, where the script reads ‘who’. Now I’m just not prepared to say it wrongly. But they may fire my ass, as the Americans say. And I just started sentences with But and And – you see, I can be flexible.

  11. I felt I should leave – for me – a ‘brief’ comment on just two, Co- ordinate conjunctions, the words AND and BUT. (Note the comma after ‘two’ and the absence of any commas when using the words AND and BUT.)

    My English language teacher, from 1951 and my first attending Purley County Grammar School for Boys, In Old Cousdon, Surrey, was a Mr Fishlock. The car he drove, a pre-war Riley, he had won, in that era, from using his ‘mastery’ of the language in an Illustrated London News competition. During my time there he won £50, a not inconsiderable sum of money in those days, for writing the ‘launch’ slogan for a new, national, daily paper:- ‘The NEW Daily that’s NEW daily’. The paper was the Daily Sketch.

    His ‘You’ll ALWAYS remember this, Smith’, advice was ‘conjunctions join, don’t separate words and phrases within a sentence’. Have I been living in blissful, ‘wrongly educated’ ignorance for the last sixty one years, or was he – God rest him and his teaching expertise – correct?

    I will await any – polite ONLY please – ‘comment’ with extreme interest.

  12. I want to use the word “and” a little less. To me it’s standing out as being overused. Here is a sample:

    “Come on …

    The scorpo-rat tilted its head and just stood there.

    She pointed to Han and then at Parcival. He made a face, but jumped down and went over to Parcival.

    The rat moved a step closer. What was its problem?

    Humm. She dangled off of the edge and waved her arms about. That did it, the rat licked its lips and came over.

    She wiggled her arms even more and it stepped right under. She stat up, swung around and kicked at the cage. It shuttered but did not fall. She kicked it again and the chain unwrapped. The cage struck it on it’s back, and the rat went down. It screeched and hissed, then its eyes rolled in the back of its head.”

    What other conjunctions mean +, along with, and such? Is it bad to use the word and a lot? I like to switch things up if possible. Mind you not on all the sentences, just here and there. Thank you kindly for any help.

Leave a Comment