logo  ELT Concourse: a short language analysis course
Concourse 2

Conjunctions

conjunction


define

Definitions

A working definition of a conjunction is:

a word used to connect clauses or words within clauses

Can you identify the conjunctions in these examples?  Work on the definition given, your knowledge of word class and your ability to identify clauses.

  1. It was raining but we went for a walk anyway.
  2. There was no bread and no butter.
  3. I came early so I could help you get ready.
  4. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
  5. If you can let me know tomorrow, it would be a great help.
  6. I can give you a lift and I can take the dog, too.

Click here when you have an answer.


five

5 things conjunctions can do

Can you classify the conjunctions in the examples above into the following five categories?  Click on the table when you have an answer.

conjunction 1 


three

3 types of conjunctions

Now we know what conjunctions do in sentences, we need to look at their grammar.  In the examples above, we have three sorts of conjunction.
In the last section, on sentences, you saw that some sentences contain subordinate clause and some contain clauses of equal weight.
In the section on clauses, you saw how we have a matrix clause which can contain either subordinate or coordinate clauses.
Now what you need to know is:

  1. Subordinating conjunctions join main clauses to subordinate clauses
  2. Coordinating conjunctions join clauses or noun phrases of equal weight
  3. Correlating conjunctions usually come in pairs and join two clauses or two noun phrases.

Can you identify these three types in the example sentences?  Here they are again with the conjunction in bold:

  1. It was raining but we went for a walk anyway.
  2. There was no bread and no butter.
  3. I came early so I could help you get ready.
  4. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
  5. If you can let me know tomorrow, it would be a great help.
  6. I can give you a lift and I can take the dog, too.

Again, click on the table when you have an answer.

conjunction 3

Some notes:

  1. Coordinating conjunctions can only be placed between the clauses or noun phrases they connect.
  2. Subordinating conjunctions on the other hand are a bit more mobile.  We can say, e.g., She came because I asked her and Because I asked her, she came with approximately the same meaning (although the emphasis varies).  However, some subordinating conjunctions require a certain ordering because of the logic of what we are saying.  We can have, therefore, He was bored so he went to see his friends and we can have He went to see his friends so he was bored but the meaning is radically different.
  3. Some of the correlating conjunctions (the ones with a negative implication) sometimes require us to insert a question form so we say, Barely had I taken my seat when the play began.  This is called inversion, incidentally (and slightly misleadingly).

lists

Lists

Here's a list of some of the most common conjunctions in English, ordered by type, with examples.  Your task is to think of examples of your own so you are sure you understand.

Coordinating conjunctions Example Subordinating conjunctions Example Correlative conjunctions Example
but  Not me but Mary because He came because I asked whether ... or I'll say it whether you want me to or not
so  I came so I could help if If you go now, you catch the bus not only ... but (also)  He is not only attractive but he's also rich
for  I can't read for the light is too dim although He drove although he was drunk as ... as He is as stupid as the day is long 
and  I went and saw him than He works harder than she does both ... and Both my sister and her husband came 
or  Either you stay or go before He arrived before I was ready no sooner ... than I was no sooner in the bath than the phone rang 
yet He works hard yet he gets nowhere why That's why you dislike him either ... or She will either explain it or show you how to do it
nor  I won't go nor will I let you when I'll come when I like rather ... than I would rather have a tooth out than watch that

The only complete list in the table above is column 1.  There are only 7 coordinating conjunctions in English by most reckonings.  The other lists can be extended very considerably.


test

Take a test

To make sure you have understood so far, try a very short test of your knowledge of conjunctions.
Use the 'Back' button to return when you have done that.

If you got that all right, it is safe to move on.

That is the end of this section of the course.  If you want to know more, go to the teacher training index and select the level you want.  That will take you to a contents menu from which you can select what you need.

Click here to return to the course index.