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Conjunctions: Coordinating & Correlative

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  • 0:07 Conjunctions
  • 0:43 Coordinating Conjunctions
  • 3:49 Correlaive Conjunctions
  • 5:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Bonn

Amy has taught college and law school writing courses and has a master's degree in English and a law degree.

Conjunctions are parts of speech that join together other words, phrases and clauses in sentences. Learn all about two types of conjunctions - coordinating and correlative - in this lesson.

Conjunctions

So, what's a conjunction? Is it one of those grammar terms that you learned long ago but can't quite seem to place? Try to remember what a conjunction is this way: You may know that the scientific term for Siamese twins is 'conjoined twins.' Twins who are conjoined are born stuck together.

The terms 'conjunction' and 'conjoined' have the same word base, and what's most important to remember is that a conjunction joins things together in a sentence. There are a few different types of conjunctions, and they work in slightly different ways, but if you remember that a conjunction is a word that joins other words, phrases or clauses together, then you're off to a good start.

Coordinating Conjunctions

One type of conjunction is the coordinating conjunction, which joins two or more elements of equal importance in a sentence. Coordinating conjunctions can connect words, phrases or clauses, and we'll look at examples of each. There are seven coordinating conjunctions, and they're easy to recall because they're all short, familiar words, and also because there's a catchy acronym to help you remember them. Here's the list:

  • For
  • And
  • Nor
  • But
  • Or
  • Yet and
  • So

Notice that if you look at the first letter of each of these coordinating conjunctions, they spell out 'FANBOYS.'

As I mentioned a minute ago, one thing that coordinating conjunctions do is join words together in a sentence. This is pretty easy, and we do it all the time. For example, when I say, 'I bought bread and apples', I've used the coordinating conjunction 'and' to join two words that are of equal importance in the sentence. The sentence, 'He will call Jim or Kendra' uses the coordinating conjunction 'or' in the same way.

Coordinating conjunctions can also connect phrases in a sentence. (You may remember that a phrase is a group of words.) For example, in the sentence 'Louis enjoys playing the piano and sailing on his boat,' the coordinating conjunction 'and' joins two phrases of equal importance in the sentence.

Finally, coordinating conjunctions can join together two or more clauses in a sentence. Knowing how to do that in the right way will take just a little bit of work. A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb. An independent clause is a clause that can stand by itself as a complete sentence. For example, 'I woke up' is a clause because it contains a subject and a verb. It's an independent clause because it can stand by itself as a complete sentence.

We can use commas and coordinating conjunctions to join independent clauses together. For example, take a look at these two short, simple sentences: 'I was up late studying. I am tired today.' Let's review our list of coordinating conjunctions. There are two that could work well here to join our two simple sentences into one coordinated sentence: and or so.

We could say, 'I was up late studying, and I am tired today,' or 'I was up late studying, so I am tired today.' Note that when you're joining two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction, you must insert a comma before the coordinating conjunction.

As you work on carrying that rule out, always double check that you are in fact working with two independent clauses. For example, with the sentence, 'I will stay out with friends or go home now,' it would be incorrect to insert a comma before the coordinating conjunction 'or.'

It would be wrong because we're not joining two independent clauses here; part of this sentence is just a phrase. The phrase 'go home now,' which we're trying to join to the rest of the sentence, isn't a complete sentence by itself, so it's not an independent clause.

We don't use a comma in front of the coordinating conjunction when we join phrases like this, just like we wouldn't use a comma when we join just words together with coordinating conjunctions. We wouldn't say, 'I bought bread, and apples.' We'd correct our sentence to say, 'I bought bread and apples' with no comma.

Correlative Conjunctions

Other types of conjunctions include correlative conjunctions, which are pairs of conjunctions that join two elements of equal importance in a sentence. The key to spotting correlative conjunctions is remembering they come in twos. Here are some common correlative conjunction pairs:

  • Not only/but also
  • Either/or
  • Neither/nor and
  • Both/and

These pairs of correlative conjunctions can join words, phrases or clauses within a sentence. Here's an example: 'I will order either chocolate ice cream or apple pie.' Note that each correlative conjunction appears immediately before the word that it's working to connect within the sentence. Here's another: 'Carmen earned not only an A on her math test, but also an award for her English essay.'

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