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What Are Correlative Conjunctions? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 What Is a Correlative…
  • 0:53 Subject-Verb Agreement
  • 2:10 Pronoun Agreement
  • 3:03 Parallel Structure
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joelle Brummitt-Yale

Joelle has taught middle school Language Arts and college academic writing. She has a master's degree in education.

Correlative conjunctions are pairs of joining words that we frequently use to connect two ideas together in a sentence. In this lesson, we'll define what a correlative conjunction is, learn the most commonly used correlative conjunctions, and discover rules for using them in sentences.

What Is a Correlative Conjunction?

Just like builders need adhesives to join materials together to construct new structures, sentence writers need conjunctions, connecting words, to join sentence parts together. One type of conjunction is the correlative conjunction. A correlative conjunction is a pair of joining words that connects two words, phrases, or clauses that are balanced together.

The most commonly used correlative conjunction pairs are:

  • both...and
  • either...or
  • neither...nor
  • not only...but also
  • whether...or

Rules for Use

When we use these correlative conjunction pairs together with words or phrases, we create a correlation or relationship between the two. However, in order to ensure that the sentences that are paired together are grammatically correct in format, let's look at the rules we need to keep in mind when using correlative conjunctions.

Subject-Verb Agreement

The verb in your sentence must agree with the subject that comes after the second word in the correlative conjunction pair. For example:

  • Neither Ramon nor his friends Stu and Carter like broccoli.

The two subjects in this sentence, 'Ramon' and 'Stu and Carter,' are separated by the correlative conjunction pair neither...nor. The subjects after 'nor' are 'Stu and Carter;' therefore, the verb must agree with this subject in point of view and number. 'Stu and Carter' is a third-person plural subject because it refers to more than one person. In fact, in order to determine the correct form of the verb 'to like' to be used in the sentence, we could substitute 'they' for 'Stu and Carter.' We would say 'they like.' Therefore, 'like' is used in the sentence:

  • Either Stu and Carter or their friend Ramon likes broccoli.

In this example, the subject after the second word of the correlative conjunction pair, or, is 'Ramon.' With the singular subject, 'Ramon,' we would say 'Ramon likes.'

Exception to This Rule

There is an exception to this rule. The subject-verb agreement rule does not apply to the correlative conjunction pair both...and because both...and indicates more than one and is thus plural. As such, the verb will always be plural. Let's look at an example:

  • Both Cheyenne and her brother like ice hockey.

Pronoun Agreement

Whenever we use a pronoun in a sentence, it must match its antecedent, the noun that the pronoun is taking the place of, in point of view, number, and gender. When a pair of correlative conjunctions is used to join two nouns, the noun nearest to the pronoun serves as the pronoun's antecedent. For example:

  • Not only the dog but also the two cats ate their food this morning.

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