A conjunction is a word that grammatically connects two words, phrases, or clauses together. The most common examples are words like ‘and’ and ‘but’.
For example, ‘I took the subway, and got off at 96th Street.’ Or, ‘I took the subway, but there was a delay.’ However, conjunctions can come in many forms with many different functions.
They’re a part of speech that can be broken down into several categories, and we’ll explore each one in depth with examples.
Conjunctions can primarily be broken down into three categories:
Coordinating conjunctions always come between two clauses in order to connect them. These are two ideas that are related and can therefore be placed into one longer sentence.
A coordinating conjunction is a conjunction like “and” and “but.” It joins together words, phrases, or clauses that are grammatically equal. The seven coordinating conjunctions are:
The seven coordinating conjunctions can be remembered using the acronym: FANBOYS
For shows reason or purpose (sometimes because can be used instead)
I go to the library, for I love to read.
While the word “so” introduces the “effect” part of a cause-and-effect relationship, the word “for” introduces the cause.
My husband and I went to Costa Rica, for it was our five-year anniversary.
Using the word “for” like this, however, can sound a bit formal and unnatural in spoken English. Instead, it’s better to use subordinating conjunctions like “because” or “since,” which we’ll discuss later. Meanwhile, the word “for” can take different usages as a preposition, not a conjunction. For example:
What are you doing for New Year’s?
And connects two or more ideas.
I like to eat cookies, and I like to drink milk.
The conjunction “and” is used to join two or more items that make sense with each other.
I put mayonnaise and mustard in this sandwich.
It can also be used to connect a series of events.
Everyday after school, I go to the library and study.
If you want to list several items, use commas and the word “and” at the very end.
I wasted so much time, energy, and money on that trip.
Nor shows a non-contrasting, negative idea.
I refuse to hug to people I don’t know, nor will I kiss them.
While “and” is used to join two positive items together, the conjunction “nor” is used to pair two negative items. It’s found either with the word “not” or with the word “neither.”
He didn’t return my calls, nor did he respond to any of my texts.
Neither the yoga nor the running made my back feel any better.
But shows contrast or exception.
Sheila likes soup, but sometimes she orders something different.
The conjunction “but” is used to join two items that contradict each other.
The dress was beautiful but slightly expensive.
A common usage of the word “but” is in the construction “not…but.” You can also use the word “rather” to emphasize the contrast in the statement.
It wasn’t a bird but a squirrel that’s been ravaging the garden.
Or shows choice or option.
He could go to the bar, or he could go to work.
The conjunction “or” can be used to present two or more options. It’s often paired with the word “either.”
He’s either flirting with me or just acts unusually nice to me.
Yet also shows contrast or exception.
He had been crying all day, yet the man made him laugh.
The conjunction “yet” is very similar to “but.”
The sauce was sweet yet had a spicy flavor to it.
Don’t get this conjunction mixed up with the other usage of the word “yet.” For example:
Did she call you back yet?
So shows consequence.
The lady was feeling ill, so she went home to bed.
If you want to express a cause-and-effect relationship, you can use the conjunction “so.” It introduces a clause that is the effect of a previous clause.
It was the week before Christmas, so the mall was unusually hectic.
Notice that the word “so” can be used to justify a suggestion or command. It can also be used to explain the basis of a question. For example:
All the bars are closed by now, so what do you want to do instead?
Another usage of the conjunction “so” is to introduce a new idea or change the subject, whether this has a cause-and-effect relationship or not. For example:
So, what do you want to talk about now?
Be careful not to mix up the coordinating conjunction “so” with other usages of the word “so.” For example:
“Is it going to be warmer tomorrow?” “I think so.”
I hid the presents so that the rest of my family wouldn’t find them.