The many functions of Conjunctions

Without a conjunction, life would be a series of short, simple and very frustrating sentences. I like cooking. I like eating. I don’t like washing dishes afterwards.

Conjunctions are words that link other words, phrases, or clauses together to form different kinds of sentences. It is very important what the different groupings of words are, so that we can join them together properly and knowledgably.

phrase is a collection of words that may have nouns or verbals, but it does not have a subject doing a verb. The following are examples of phrases:

  • leaving behind the dog
  • smashing into a fence

A clause is a collection of words that has a subject that is actively doing a verb. The following are examples of clauses:

  • since she laughs at diffident men
  • I despise individuals of low character

If the clause could stand by itself, and form a complete sentence with punctuation, we call the clause an independent clause. Like the second clause above.

If you are unsure whether a group of words is a clause or phrase, break down the words into the parts of speech to help you decide. If there is a subject and a verb with a predicate, it is a clause. If there is a noun but no verb or a verb but no noun and does not have a predicate, it is a phrase. Always keep in mind that sometimes phrases are built into clauses.

Conjunctions are of three kinds.

  1. Coordinating Conjunctions
  2. Subordinating Conjunctions
  3. Correlative Conjunctions

Coordinating Conjunctions

There are many coordinating conjunctions we may use, like- for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. These may be memorised using the mnemonic FANBOYS. Each letter in the word, corresponds with a different conjunction.

Coordinating conjunctions link 2 sentences which share a common value.


  1. Ram goes to school.
  2. Ali goes to school.

Correct use of conjunctions: Ram and Ali go to school.

  1. This is a blue pen.
  2. She is a a woman.

Incorrect use of but: This is a blue pen but she is a woman. (No common value, i.e. the nature of both subjects is different)

  1. This is a blue pen.
  2. This is a red pen.

Correct use of but: This is a blue pen but this a red pen.


I’d like pizza or a salad for lunch. We needed a place to concentrate, so we packed up our things and went to the library. Jesse didn’t have much money, but she got by.


Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions join independent and dependent clauses. A subordinating conjunction can signal a cause-and-effect relationship, a contrast, or some other kind of relationship between the clauses. Common subordinating conjunctions are because, since, as, although, though, while, and whereas. Sometimes an adverb, such as until, after, or before can function as a conjunction.

I can stay out until the clock strikes twelve.

Here, the adverb until functions as a coordinating conjunction to connect two ideas: I can stay out(the independent clause) and the clock strikes twelve (the dependent clause). The independent clause could stand alone as a sentence; the dependent clause depends on the independent clause to make sense.

The subordinating conjunction doesn’t need to go in the middle of the sentence. It has to be part of the dependent clause, but the dependent clause can come before the independent clause.

Before he leaves, make sure his room is clean.

If the dependent clause comes first, use a comma before the independent clause.

I drank a glass of water because I was thirsty. Because I was thirsty, I drank a glass of water.

Subordinating Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are pairs of conjunctions that work together. Some examples are either/or, neither/nor, not only/but also,  and/so,

Not only am I finished studying for English, but I’m also finished writing my history essay. I am finished with both my English essay and my history essay.

The next time you plan to make a sentence, consider the rules, tips and details above so that you can rest assured about your sentence construction. For more of such content and wisdom, subscribe to our blog!

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