Conjunctions English Grammar

What is a Conjunction?

Conjunctions are words used solely for connecting other words or phrases in a sentence. In the process, they often serve to compress the length of a sentence. They perform no other function what so ever.

  • Have your lunch before noon.
  • Shlok will take the files and get them photocopied.
  • I will not miss the show even if I have to skip my class.

More About Conjunctions

Conjunctions are similar in appearance to the other parts of speech such as relative pronouns, relative adverbs and prepositions. The function they perform is what sets them apart.

To better understand this distinction, let us take a closer look at the Example s below.

Conjunction vs. Relative Pronoun

  • Words when used as relative pronouns function as the subject of the dependent clause and not just a connector. 
  • Words when used as conjunctions have a distinct subject following them.

Example  1:

The house which is on sale is haunted. (Relative Pronoun)

The woodcutter could not decide which tree to cut. (Conjunction)

In the first sentence, ‘which’ refers to the noun ‘house’; therefore, it is a relative pronoun. In the second sentence, ‘which’ is used to connect two clauses; therefore, it is a conjunction.

Example  2: 

The cup that was on the table was half full. (Relative Pronoun)

The man promised that he would buy new clothes for his son. (Conjunction)

In the first sentence, ‘that’ refers to the noun ‘cup’, thus making it a relative pronoun. In the second sentence, ‘that’ is used to connect two clauses; therefore, it is a conjunction.

Example  3: 

  • The lady who called for you did not give her name. (Relative Pronoun)
  • No one can guess who the mastermind of the theft was. (Conjunction)

In the first sentence, ‘who’ refers to the noun ‘lady’, thus making it a relative pronoun. In the second sentence, ‘who’ is used to connect two clauses; therefore, it is a conjunction.  The phrases ‘tree’, ‘he’ and ‘the mastermind’ (highlighted in blue) are the subjects of the dependent clauses in those sentences.

Conjunction vs. Relative Adverbs

Words when used as Relative Adverbs function as post-modifiers to the main verb in the sentence.

When they are used as conjunctions, they merely serve to connect two phrases or clauses.

Example  1:

The area where I live is usually crowded with hawkers. I still have to find a place where I can hold the party.

In the first sentence, ‘where’ modifies the verb ‘live’, thus making it a relative adverb.

In the second sentence, ‘where’ connects two complete clauses; therefore, it is a conjunction.

Example  2:

The day when he learned his lesson changed him for life. Julie shows her shrewd side when she faces opposition.

In the first sentence, ‘when’ modifies the verb ‘learned’, thus making it a relative adverb. In the second sentence, ‘when’ connects two complete clauses; therefore, it is a conjunction.

Example  3:

No one knew the reason why the girl was crying bitterly.

Come here and tell me the reason you did not attend the class.

In the first sentence, ‘why’ modifies the verb ‘crying’, thus making it a relative adverb. In the second sentence, ‘why’ connects two complete clauses; therefore, it is a conjunction.

Types of Conjunctions

Conjunctions are broadly classified into three types: 

  • Coordinating conjunctions
  • Subordinating conjunctions 
  • Correlative conjunctions

Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are used to connect words, phrases and clauses of equal rank or importance.

These include

ForAndNor
ButOrYet
SoEitherNeither

Let us look at some Examples which use the above coordinating conjunctions.

Example

FOR  He could not come now for he had some work.
AND  The boys stayed home and ordered pizza.
NOR  I will not question you nor will I oppose what you do. 
BUT  There was no one but the sleepy dog in the room.
OR  Are you from Mumbai or Delhi?
YET  I hate noise, yet I live along the busiest street in town.
SO  The manager was out of time, so his assistant briefed us.
EITHER Either do something productive or go to sleep.
NEITHER Neither Mack nor Rick knew how to drive a car.

NOTE: o All coordinating conjunctions except for ‘nor’ and ‘or’ can be omitted from a sentence and replaced with a comma (,) a semi-colon (;) or a colon (:). 

Example:

Cats love licking themselves but hate bathing.

Cats love licking themselves; they hate bathing. 

I am a vegetarian, yet I serve non-veg. food in my hotel. I am a vegetarian; I serve non-veg. food in my hotel.

Types of Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions can be further classified into four types based on the functions they perform. These are

  • Cumulative conjunction – And – Used to sum up or add elements mentioned in a sentence. Example: Cane and wood, nails and hammer 
  • Adversative conjunction – But, Yet – Used to highlight opposites or contrast between seemingly similar elements in a sentence.

Example: Beautiful but expensive, kind yet firm

  • Disjunctive/Alternative conjunction – Or, Nor, Neither – Used to highlight a choice within the sentence.

Example s: Blue or green, neither mammal nor reptile

  • Illative conjunction – For – Used to highlight an inference drawn in the sentence.  Example : Seema works for she has to support her family. 

Subordinating Conjunctions 

Subordinating conjunctions are used to connect a main clause to a dependent or subordinate clause. The use of the subordinating conjunction helps the dependent clause connect to and derive meaning from the main clause.

There is a wide range of words which are included in this category. A few commonly used subordinating conjunctions are listed below:

AfterAlthoughAsBecause
BeforeIfSinceThan
ThatThoughTillUnless
UntilWhenWheneverWhere
WhereasWhereverWhetherWhile

Let us look at some Example s to understand how subordinating conjunctions are used.

AFTER We will move into the new house after the construction work gets complete.
ALTHOUGH Although there was place in the cabin, they did not allow more people to get in.
AS As it is raining outside, we have to postpone our trip.
BECAUSE I teach these children because I trust in their potential.  
BEFORE I heard the footsteps before the door opened.
IF If your designs are selected, you will receive the order.
SINCE Since they could not find the missing jewels, she filed a police complaint.
THAN The time taken by team A to solve the quiz was shorter than that taken by team B.
THAT It is a known fact that the kid learnt the trade from his father. 
THOUGH Though the interior of the mansion was dark, it was warm and homely.  
TILL We played near the lake till the Sun started to set.
UNLESS The certificates cannot be distributed unless they are signed by the principal.  
UNTIL You will receive a magazine every month until your subscription lasts.
WHEN We should begin the repairs when the rain stops.
WHENEVER The flowers bloom whenever it is sunny outside.
WHERE She takes us to places where the discounts are really good.
WHEREAS Mark is a police officer, whereas his younger brother is in the navy.
WHEREVER These insects can be found wherever those wild flowers grow.
WHETHER The teacher asked the student whether he was comfortable with the topic he had to speak on.
WHILE While the price of gold has come down, many people prefer platinum over it.

Observe that the clauses in red are the main clauses in the sentences and the ones in black are the subordinate clauses. These subordinate clauses derive their meaning through the support of the subordinating conjunctions which connect them to the main clauses.

Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are words used in pairs and whose main function is to establish a relation. Each conjunction in these pairs is immediately followed by the phrases being connected or compared by them.

These include

Either … orNeither … norBoth … and
Though … yetWhether … orNot only … but also

 Example:

EITHER … OR           You can either wear blue or white for the peace march.
NEITHER … NOR Neither the vegetables nor the fruits in the pantry were fresh.
BOTH … AND            Both the cake and the vine should be delivered shortly.
THOUGH … YET       Though he wasn’t educated, yet he was the best storyteller.         
WHETHER … OR The doctor asked whether my pain was subsiding or it was getting worse.

Compound Conjunctions

Compound conjunctions are phrases used as conjunctions in a sentence. They can function as either coordinating or subordinating conjunctions. 

In order thatEven ifProvided thatInasmuch asAs soon as
On condition thatSo thatAs thoughAs well asAs if

Example

IN ORDER THAT You need to begin saving money in order that you have enough to buy a car.
EVEN IF          Even if you soak the pulses now, you should be able to cook them this evening. 
PROVIDED THAT The race will begin soon provided that the turbulent weather calms down.
AS SOON AS The milk in the container was transferred to the bottles as soon as it had cooled.
SO THAT        He worked overtime so that he could take the next day off.
AS THOUGH It felt as though they were being deceived.
AS WELL AS I will cook the menu as well as plate the dishes.
AS IF               She narrated the incident as if she saw it with her own eyes.