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Types of Conjunctions: Coordinating, Subordinating, and Correlative

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/19/2014

What are conjunctions? Sure, they're joining words, but they're much more than that. Conjunctions are the words that decide the importance of the various other words in the sentence. Each of the three types: coordinating, subordinating and correlative conjunctions serve a unique purpose.

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    Definition: Conjunctions are words that link other words, phrases or clauses. There are three types of conjunctions: coordinating, subordinating and correlative conjunctions.

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    Coordinating

    Coordinating conjunctions connect two words or groups of words with similar values. They may connect two words, two phrases, two independent clauses or two dependent clauses.

    For example, in each of the following sentences the coordinating conjunction “and” connects equal words or groups of words:

    Connects two words: John and Reggie stayed up all night practicing their guitars.

    Connects two phrases: The squirrel scurried up the tree trunk and onto a low branch.

    Connects two clauses: Several managers sat with their backs to us, and I could almost hear them snickering at us lowly workers.

    There are only seven coordinating conjunctions in the English language, and they are often remembered by using the acronym “FANBOYS”: for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so.

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    Subordinating

    Subordinating conjunctions connect two groups of words by making one into a subordinating clause. The subordinating clause acts as one huge adverb, answering the questions “when” or “why” about the main clause, or imposing conditions or opposition on it.

    Here are some examples of subordinating conjunctions changing a clause into adverbial subordinating clauses in different ways:

    • I can go shopping after I finish studying for my exam. (when)
    • Because the night was young, Gertrude decided to take a walk. (why)
    • I’ll give you a dime if you give me a dollar. (condition)
    • Although he never figured out why, Hanna winked on her way out the door. (opposition)

    Note: The subordinating conjunction does not always come between the two clauses it connects. Often, it comes at the beginning of the first clause.

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    Correlative

    Correlative conjunctions are always used in pairs. They are similar to coordinating conjunctions because they join sentence elements that are similar in importance.

    The following are some examples of coordinating conjunctions:

    Both, and: Both Rodney and Xing made the varsity team this year.

    Neither, nor: Neither Rodney nor Xing made the varsity team this year.

    Not only, but also: Not only did Rodney make the varsity team, but he also become one of the strongest players.

    Remember these three types of conjunctions - coordinate, subordinate and correlative conjunctions - and you've got one part of speech down pat.