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Concourse 2

Coordinating clauses

coordination

coordinate, adjective (/kəʊˈɔːdɪnət/: equal in rank or importance.

This lesson is about how to join together clauses which are of equal importance.

There are tasks to do in this lesson.  When you see the word Task, stop for a moment and do the exercise.  You will learn more that way.

Basically, there are two ways to join sentences together in English (and most languages):

  1. Coordination: joining equal ideas
    coordination
    For example:
    She came to the party and she met a lot of nice people.
    Both ideas can stand in single sentences:
    She came to the party.  She met a lot of nice people.
    We can take out the linking word (conjunction) and the meaning does not change.
  1. Subordination: joining unequal ideas
    subordination
    For example:
    She came to the party because she wanted to meet a lot of nice people.
    When we take out the linking word, we lose the meaning of why she came to the party.
 

Here, we focus on the first type only.  There is a separate lesson about subordinating clauses.

coordinators

The coordinators

In English, but not in all languages, there are:
Four main coordinators:
and
or
but
so
Four other coordinators:
for
(when it means because)
yet
nor
so that

In this lesson, we will mostly be looking at the first four of these because they are the most important and the most common.  At the end, we will look quickly at the other four.


and

Coordination with and

You may think this is too simple for you but you may be surprised.  As we go along, ask yourself the questions:
Can I do this in my language?
Does the word mean the same in my language?

You will sometimes hear that clauses connected with and can be changed around with no change in meaning.
For example:
It is raining and it is cold
can be:
It is cold and it is raining
In fact, it is quite unusual for there to be no change in meaning and sometimes, if you turn the clauses round, you make a nonsense sentence.

think Task 1:
A) Which one of these sentences is good English and which one is nonsense?
B) Why?
C) Can you reverse the clauses and still have a sensible sentence?

Sentence 1: He came to party and Mars is the fourth planet from the sun
Sentence 2: He came to the party and Mary was not pleased to see him
When you have an answer, click here.
think Task 2:
A) Which one of these sentences is good English and which one is nonsense?
B) Why?
Sentence 1: He saw the accident and called the police
Sentence 2: He called the police and saw the accident
When you have an answer, click here.
think Task 3:
A) Which one of these sentences is good English and which one is nonsense?
B) Why?
Sentence 1: John went to the station and caught the train
Sentence 2: John caught the train and went to the station
When you have an answer, click here.
think Task 4:
A) Can you use and to join these ideas in your language?
B) Can you reverse the clauses and still have a sensible sentence?
John refused to take the job and that's quite right
When you have an answer, click here.
think Task5:
A) Can you use and to join these ideas in your language?
B) Can you reverse the clauses and still have a sensible sentence?
Help me with this work and I'll buy you a coffee
When you have an answer, click here.

We have five rules now.  Here they are for you to check.

  1. The two ideas must be logically connected.  They must have something in common.
  2. We can use and to connect a cause and a result.
  3. We can use and to show the ordering of events in time.
  4. We can use and to make a comment on something.
  5. We can use and to mean if.

or

Coordination with or

Do I go right or left?  

Again, you may think this is too simple for you but you may be surprised.  As we go along, ask yourself the same questions:
Can I do this in my language?
Does the word mean the same in my language?

Again, you may be told that reversing the clauses makes no difference to the meaning.  Sometimes, that's true but English speakers will often choose to put what they prefer first.
Sometimes, you make nonsense if you reverse the clauses.

think Task 6:
A) Which one of these sentences is good English and which one is nonsense?
B) Why?
C) Can you reverse the clauses and still have a sensible sentence?

Sentence 1: She can fly or she can take the train
Sentence 2: She can fly or she has done the shopping
When you have an answer, click here.
think Task 7:
A) Can you use or to join these ideas in your language?
B) Can you reverse the clauses and still have a sensible sentence?

Sentence 1: She enjoyed the film or she wouldn't have stayed to the end.
Sentence 2: Give me your money or I'll shoot you!
When you have an answer, click here.

There are only two rules for using or:

  1. The ideas must be logically connected.
  2. We can use it instead of making a conditional sentence with if.

but

Coordination with but

.... but I have a question  

You have probably learned that but is used to state a contrast between two things as in, for example:
    I want to stay at home but she wants to go out
That is a very common way to use but.

There is another way.

think Task 8:
A) Can you say what but means in this sentence?
B) Can you use but like that in your language?

He didn't spend the summer lying on the beach but worked hard to pass his examinations
When you have an answer, click here.

taxi

Coordination with so

.... so I took a taxi  

You may have learned that so and because are very similar.  They are similar in meaning but different in grammar.

think Task 9:
A) Can you move the parts of these sentences
in black to the beginning?
Sentence 1.: My car broke down
so I took a taxi
Sentence 2.: I took a taxi
because my car broke down
B) Can you move the part of this sentence in black to the end?
Sentence 3:
Because I want to be at work early, I'm getting up at 6
When you have an answer, click here.

4

The other 4 coordinators

The other four coordinators are much less common so there are no tasks in this part, just some information for you.

FOR
blackpool
This coordinator sometimes means something like because but the grammar is different:
We can say:
He went to Blackpool for that is where his mother lives
and
He went to Blackpool because that is where his mother lives
and the meaning is similar, although the sentence with for is very formal.
The difference is that we can say:
Because that is where is mother lives, he went to Blackpool
but we cannot say
*For that is where his mother lives he went to Blackpool.
The word for is a coordinator and must come between the clauses.  It cannot move about!
YET
work
This coordinator means something like but and is more formal:
We can say:
He worked hard but didn't get the new job
and
He worked hard yet didn't get the new job
and the meaning is very similar.
Both these words must come between the clauses so we cannot have:
*But he worked hard he didn't get the new job
or
*Yet he worked hard he didn't get the new job
BOTH of those are wrong because both but and yet are coordinators and stand between the ideas.
NOR
food
This coordinator works a little like or but for two negative ideas.  For example:
He didn't eat the food, nor did he drink the coffee
which means:
He didn't eat the food and he didn't drink the coffee
We also use this coordinator with words like hardly, never, no-one etc. which are negative adverbs and pronouns.  For example:
He hardly saw his friends nor did he talk to his family
The word is not very common and you can always make the sentence a different way to give the same meaning.
Notice that you must make a question form after nor.  Saying or writing:
*He didn't eat the food nor he drank the wine
is wrong!  We must say:
He didn't eat the food, nor did he drink the wine
SO THAT
snow
This is an unusual one because it has two meanings:
Meaning 1: the result of something.  For example:
It snowed hard all night so that he couldn't get out of the house
In this sentence, the fact that he could not leave the house is the result of the snow.
You can always replace so that with so:
It snowed hard all night so he couldn't get out of the house
Meaning 2: the reason for something.  For example:
I worked late last night so that I didn't have to go to work early this morning
In this meaning, so that is not a coordinator because we can move it to the front and have:
So that I didn't have to go to work early this morning, I worked late last night
It is a subordinator in this sentence and we will look at it again in the lesson on subordination.

missing

Leaving words out


think Task 10:
Look at these sentences and decide which words have been left out of the second part.
For example, in:
John came home and went to bed
We have left out John in the second part because we know it is the same person.
Which words have been left out in these sentences?
Click here when you have your answer.
  1. Mary came to the meeting and said the work was finished
  2. I can tell you or your father
    I can tell you and your father
  3. I have been to Paris and seen the Mona Lisa
  4. He wanted the car but couldn't afford it
  5. I watched carefully so learnt how to do it

With coordinators, these are the rules:

  1. We can leave out the subject if it is the same
  2. We can leave out the auxiliary verb if it is the same for both verbs but the verbs are different in each part
  3. We can leave out the whole verb phrase if it is the same verb and the same auxiliary in both parts

With subordinators, we can't do this so:
*Because he was in London, came to see me
is wrong and must be:
Because he was in London he came to see me

How does it work in your language?


practice

Getting more practice

Look again at any writing you have done in English and try to find three things:

  1. Times when you have made two short sentences and one longer sentence with a coordinator would be better.  When you find it, make it better.
  2. Times when you have used the coordinators wrongly.  Remember, real coordinators must come between the ideas.
  3. Times when you have included the subject twice but it is the same for both verbs.  You can usually take it out.
  4. Take a short test in this area.