Conjunctions Join Two Words, Clauses or Phrases

fanboysAn overview of conjunctions

Conjunctions unite words, phrases, and clauses.  A simple example is ‘salt and pepper.’ The word ‘and’ is like the glue that joins salt with pepper.  The most commonly used conjunctions are and, but, or.

Coordinating conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions join two words, phrases or clauses of equal value. There are six coordinating conjunctions, and an easy way to remember them is the acronym FANBOYS (For And Nor But Or Yet So).


For – ‘I do not like skiing for it is dangerous.’

And – ‘The baby ate the cake and drank the soda.’  The word and combines things.

Nor – ‘The boy does not like vegetables nor does he like fruit.  The word nor combines untrue things.

But – ‘We tried everything to get him down from the tree but cutting down the tree.’  The word but expresses exceptions.

Or – ‘Would you rather save the rainforest or the ocean?’ The word or chooses between options.

Yet – ‘I want to leave, yet I cannot.’ The word ‘yet’ is like the phrase ‘to the contrary’ and is used to express unexpected things.

So – ‘I am not feeling well, so I will stay at home.’  The word so shows consequence.

Coordinating and subordinating conjunctions

It is necessary to understand clauses to understand coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. All clauses are sentences, but not all sentences are clauses.  A clause has a subject and a verb. An independent clause stands on its own in a sentence. It makes sense without being dependent on another clause for its meaning.

Coordinating conjunctions connect two independent clauses.  For example, ‘It was raining outside, so Joe decided to stay at home.

Subordinating conjunctions unite independent and dependent clauses.  A dependent clause provides extra information that isn’t necessary. For example, ‘Joe decided to stay at home because it was raining.’  The dependent clause ‘because it was raining’ describes the reason for Joe staying at home but does not make sense without the independent clause ‘Joe decided to stay at home.’


Examples of subordinating conjunctions:

As /as if
Even if
Even though
if/if only
Rather than

Words like after and before are also prepositions.

Correlative conjunction

Correlative means together with relatives.  Correlative conjunctions are related in some way, i.e., matching sets.

Examples are:

  • Either/or sets up the example that you are going to be choosing between two different things.  An example is ‘Either six of one or half a dozen of the other.’
  • The opposite is neither/nor, which rejects both options.  Neither soap nor water should be used for cleaning computers.
  • ‘Both/and’ sets up a connection between two things. ‘Both isopropyl alcohol and a soft cloth are needed for cleaning a computer.’
  • As / so – If one thing happens, then another thing happens. ‘As inflation rises, so does poverty.’
  • Whether / or – Indication of possibility. ‘Whether you like baseball or football, there is a match happening soon.

‘Starting a sentence with a conjunction

There is debate over whether it is ok to start a sentence with a conjunction. Starting a sentence with ‘but,’ ‘or,’ ‘and’ etc. is not accepted in formal and academic writing, however, it seems to be common practice in the media and storytelling type narrative.  An example is a sentence, ‘But the question remains …’


  • Coordinating conjunctions join two words, phrases or clauses of equal value.
  • Subordinating conjunctions unite dependent and independent clauses or phrases.
  • Correlative conjunctions join two things or ideas that are related
  • Starting a sentence with a conjunction is acceptable except for formal and academic writing.


These books provide both study and reference material for English Grammar

Understanding and Using English Grammar by Betty Azar understandingEnglishGrammar
Grammarly. Correct your grammar as you type. Grammarly logo
English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy English Grammar in Use
The Bluebook of Grammar and punctuation – An easy to use guide with clear rules, real-world examples, and reproducible quizzes. thebluebookofgrammar


Aaron Skudder


  1. I really appreciate the acronym that you shared to help English learners know what the basic conjunctions are in the English language.  The information you have shared should be and can be used as a supporting text on what conjunctions are and how to use them effectively in the English language. 

  2. Thank you so much for such an informative post! Conjunction is always confusing to me, sometimes I use the right one and sometimes I use the wrong one and I have to consult google every time! English is truly a life long learning for me, even though I speak it every day! 

    I usually have the problem with subordinating conjunctions. I guess I just have to keep practicing more and hopefully the native speaker will correct me. lol

  3. Perfectly explained in a straightforward lesson, thanks! I really like the FANBOYS acronym to remember the coordinating conjunctions. I do feel like starting a sentence with a conjunction should be more acceptable. There have been many instances of wanting to start a sentence with ‘but’ …but…I have avoided it. Using ‘or’ at the beginning of a sentence also makes sense to me if you are asking multiple questions. Thanks again!

    • Starting a sentence with a ‘conjunction’ adds tension and is great for creative writing. For example, ‘But little did she know …..’

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