DefinitionA conjunction is a joiner, a word thatconnects(conjoins) parts of a sentence.Somewords are satisfied spending an evening at home, alone, eating ice-cream right out of the box, watchingSeinfeldre-runs on TV, or reading a good book. Others aren't happy unless they're out on the town, mixing it up with other words; they'rejoinersand they just can't help themselves.
The simple, little conjunctions are calledcoordinating conjunctionsCoordinating Conjunctions are:and,but,or,yet,for,nor, andso
When a coordinating conjunction connects twoindependent clauses, it is often (but not always) accompanied by a comma:Ulysses wants to play forUConn, buthe has had trouble meeting the academic requirements.When the two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction are nicely balanced or brief, many writers will omit the comma:Ulysses has a great jump shot but he isn't quick on his feet.
Comma Usage with Conjunctions
The comma is always correct when used to separate two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction. SeePunctuation Between Two Independent Clausesfor further help.A comma is also correct whenandis used to attach the last item of a serial list, although many writers (especially in newspapers) will omit that final comma:Ulysses spent his summer studying basic math, writing, andreading comprehension.When a coordinating conjunction is used to connect all the elements in a series, a comma is not used:PresbyteriansandMethodistsandBaptists are the prevalent Protestant congregations in Oklahoma.A comma is also used withbutwhen expressing a contrast:This is a useful rule, butdifficult to remember.
Joining Sentence Elements
In most of their other roles as joiners (other than joining independent clauses, that is), coordinating conjunctions can join two sentence elements without the help of a comma.HemingwayandFitzgerald are among the American expatriates of the between-the-wars era.Hemingway was renowned for his clear styleandhis insights into American notions of male identity.It is hard to say whether HemingwayorFitzgerald is the more interesting cultural icon of his day.Although Hemingway is sometimes disparaged for his unpleasant portrayal of womenandfor his glorification ofmachismo, we nonetheless find some sympathetic, even heroic, female figures in his novelsandshort stories.
The Conjunction- And
To suggest that one idea is chronologically sequential to another: "Tashondasent in her applicationsandwaited by the phone for a response."To suggest that one idea is the result of another: "Willie heard the weather reportandpromptly boarded up his house."To suggest that one idea is in contrast to another (frequently replaced bybutin this usage): "Juanita is brilliantandShalimar has a pleasant personality.To suggest an element of surprise (sometimes replaced byyetin this usage): "Hartford is a rich cityandsuffers from many symptoms of urban blight."To suggest that one clause is dependent upon another, conditionally (usually the first clause is an imperative): "Use your credit cards frequentlyandyou'll soon find yourself deep in debt."To suggest a kind of "comment" on the first clause: "Charlie became addicted to gambling —andthat surprised no one who knew him."
To suggest a contrast that is unexpected in light of the first clause: "Joey lost a fortune in the stock market,buthe still seems able to live quite comfortably."To suggest in an affirmative sense what the first part of the sentence implied in a negative way (sometimes replaced byon the contrary): "The club never invested foolishly,butused the services of a sage investment counselor."To connect two ideas with the meaning of "with the exception of" (and then the second word takes over as subject): "EverybodybutGoldenbreathis trying out for the team."
To suggest that only one possibility can be realized, excluding one or the other: "You can study hard for this examoryou can fail."To suggest the inclusive combination of alternatives: "We can broil chicken on the grill tonight,orwe can just eat leftovers.To suggest a refinement of the first clause: "Smith College is the premier all-women's college in the country,orso it seems to most Smith College alumnae."To suggest a restatement or "correction" of the first part of the sentence: "There are no rattlesnakes in this canyon,orso our guide tells us."To suggest a negative condition: "The New Hampshire state motto is the rather grim "Live freeordie."To suggest a negative alternative without the use of an imperative (see use ofandabove): "They must approve his political styleorthey wouldn't keep electing him mayor."
The conjunctionNORis not extinct, but it is not used nearly as often as the other conjunctions, so it might feel a bit odd whennordoes come up in conversation or writing. Its most common use is as the little brother in the correlative pair,neither-nor (seebelow):He is neither sanenorbrilliant.That is neither what I saidnorwhat I meant.>It can be used with other negative expressions:That is not what I meant to say,norshould you interpret my statement as an admission of guilt.It is possible to usenorwithout a preceding negative element, but it is unusual and, to an extent, rather stuffy:George's handshake is as good as any written contract, nor has he ever proven untrustworthy.
The wordYETfunctions sometimes as an adverb and has several meanings: in addition ("yet another cause of trouble" or "a simple yet noble woman"), even ("yet more expensive"), still ("he is yet a novice"), eventually ("they may yet win"), and so soon as now ("he's not here yet"). It also functions as a coordinating conjunction meaning something like "nevertheless" or "but." The wordyetseems to carry an element of distinctiveness thatbutcan seldom register.John plays basketball well,yethis favorite sport is badminton.The visitors complained loudly about the heat,yetthey continued to play golf every day.
The wordFORis most often used as a preposition, of course, but it does serve, on rare occasions, as a coordinating conjunction. Some people regard the conjunctionforas rather highfalutin and literary, and it does tend to add a bit of weightiness to the text. Beginning a sentence with the conjunction "for" is probably not a good idea, except when you're singing "For he's a jolly good fellow. "For" has serious sequential implications and in its use the order of thoughts is more important than it is, say, withbecauseorsince. Its function is to introduce the reason for the preceding clause:John thought he had a good chance to get the job,forhis father was on the company's board of trustees.Most of the visitors were happy just sitting around in the shade,forit had been a long, dusty journey on the train.
Be careful of the conjunctionSO. Sometimes it can connect two independent clauses along with a comma, but sometimes it can't. For instance, in this sentence,Soto is not the only Olympic athlete in his family, so are his brother, sister, and his Uncle Chet.where the wordsomeans "as well" or "in addition," most careful writers would use a semicolon between the two independent clauses. In the following sentence, wheresois acting like a minor-league "therefore," the conjunction and the comma are adequate to the task:Soto has always been nervous in large gatherings, so it is no surprise that he avoids crowds of his adoring fans.Sometimes, at the beginning of a sentence,sowill act as a kind of summing up device or transition, and when it does, it is often set off from the rest of the sentence with a comma:So, the sheriff peremptorily removed the child from the custody of his parents.
Subordinating ConjunctionsASubordinating Conjunction(sometimes called a dependent word or subordinator) comes at the beginning of aSubordinate (or Dependent) Clauseand establishes the relationship between the dependent clause and the rest of the sentence. It also turns the clause into something that depends on the rest of the sentence for its meaning.He took to the stageas thoughhe had been preparing for this moment all his life.Becausehe loved acting, he refused to give up his dream of being in the movies.Unlesswe act now, all is lost.
Common Subordinating Conjunctions
afteralthoughasas ifas long asas thoughbecausebeforeeven ifeven thoughifif onlyin order thatnow thatoncerather than
Common Subordinating Conjunctions continued
Using like and as…
Strictly speaking, the wordlikeis a preposition, not a conjunction. It can, therefore, be used to introduce a prepositional phrase ("My brother is talllike my father"), but it should not be used to introduce a clause ("My brother can't play the piano likeas he did before the accident" or "It looks like as if basketball is quickly overtaking baseball as America's national sport."). To introduce a clause, it's a good idea to useas,as though, oras if, instead.Like As I told you earlier, the lecture has been postponed.It looks like as if it's going to snow this afternoon.Johnson kept looking out the window like as though he had someone waiting for him.In formal, academic text, it's a good idea to reserve the use oflikefor situations in which similarities are being pointed out:This community college islikea two-year liberal arts college.However, when you are listing things that have similarities,such asis probably more suitable:The college has several highly regarded neighbors, like such as the Mark Twain House, St. Francis Hospital, the Connecticut Historical Society, and theUConnLaw School.
Getting rid of the word “That”
The wordthatis used as a conjunction to connect a subordinate clause to a preceding verb. In this constructionthatis sometimes called the "expletivethat."Indeed, the word is often omitted to good effect, but the very fact of easy omission causes some editors to take out the red pen and strike out the conjunctionthatwherever it appears. In the following sentences, we can happily omit thethat(or keep it, depending on how the sentence sounds to us):Isabel knew [that] she was about to be fired.She definitely felt [that] her fellow employees hadn't supported her.I hope [that] she doesn't blame me.Sometimes omitting thethatcreates a break in the flow of a sentence, a break that can be adequately bridged with the use of a comma:The problem is, that production in her department has dropped.Remember, that we didn't have these problems before she started working here.As a general rule, if the sentence feels just as good without thethat,if no ambiguity results from its omission, if the sentence is more efficient or elegant without it, then we can safely omit thethat.Theodore Bernstein liststhree conditions in which we should maintain the conjunctionthat:When a time element intervenes between the verb and the clause: "The boss said yesterdaythatproduction in this department was down fifty percent." (Notice the position of "yesterday.")When the verb of the clause is long delayed: "Our annual report revealedthatsome losses sustained by this department in the third quarter of last year were worse than previously thought." (Notice the distance between the subject "losses" and its verb, "were.")When a secondthatcan clear up who said or did what: "The CEO said that Isabel's department was slacking off andthatproduction dropped precipitously in the fourth quarter." (Did the CEO say that production dropped or was the drop a result of what he said about Isabel's department? The secondthatmakes the sentence clear.)
Beginning a sentence with the word; because…
Somehow, the notion that one should not begin a sentence with the subordinating conjunctionbecauseretains a mysterious grip on people's sense of writing proprieties. This might come about because a sentence that begins withbecausecould well end up a fragment if one is not careful to follow up the "because clause" with an independent clause.Because e-mail now plays such a huge role in our communications industry.When the "because clause" is properly subordinated to another idea (regardless of the position of the clause in the sentence), there is absolutely nothing wrong with it:Because e-mail now plays such a huge role in our communications industry, the postal service would very much like to see it taxed in some manner.
Some conjunctions combine with other words to form what are calledcorrelative conjunctions. They always travel in pairs, joining various sentence elements that should be treated as grammatically equal.She led the teamnot onlyin statisticsbut alsoby virtue of her enthusiasm.Polonius said, "Neithera borrowernora lender be."Whetheryou win this raceorlose it doesn't matter as long as you do your best.Correlative conjunctions sometimes create problems in parallel form. ClickHEREfor help with those problems. Here is a brief list of common correlative conjunctions.both . . . andnot only . . . but alsonot . . . buteither . . . or neither . . . norwhether . . . oras . . . as