What is a Correlative Conjunction? Definition, Examples of Correlating Conjunctions

Correlative conjunction definition: Correlative conjunctions are conjunctions that function as separable compounds, occurring in pairs, and have corresponding meanings.

What is a Correlative Conjunction?

A conjunction is a part of speech that connects or coordinates words, phrases, or clauses.

A correlative conjunction is a type of conjunction that functions in a pair, with both words working together to balance words, phrases, or clauses.

This pair of conjunctions “correlates” together.

Correlative Conjunctions List

Correlating conjunction There are many examples of correlative conjunctions; some are used more frequently than others, but here is list of the most common pairs

  • Both / and
  • Either / or
  • Hardly / when
  • If / then
  • Just as / so
  • Neither / nor
  • Not only / but also
  • Rather / or
  • Whether / or

Of this list, the most common by far are,

  • Either / or
  • Neither / nor
  • Not only / but also

Examples of Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions must balance sentences and ideas. They are only used when equal, correlative ideas are presented.

  • Either you will eat your dinner or you will go to bed.
  • He is neither employed nor looking for a job.
  • Not only do I love this band, but I have also seen them in concert twice.

Be Careful When Using Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions must be used mindfully. In that sense, they are like semicolons—they should only be used in order to balance a sentence. They should not be used with ideas that are disparate or unequal.

Verb Agreement

correlative conjunctions examples What is verb agreement? As will all clauses, it is important to maintain verb agreement when using correlative conjunctions.

If a coordinating conjunction is used to connect subjects, the verb must agree with the second subject regardless of the first subject. (However, the subjects themselves must be balanced and related.)

Examples:

  • Every day either the cats or the dog reacts to the mailman.
    • This sentence has two subjects: the cats and the dog. The second subject, the dog, is the subject that must agree with the verb. Therefore, the sentence reads: “the dog reacts” not “the dog react.”
  • Neither my cousin nor my siblings enjoy roller coasters.
    • This sentence has two subjects: my cousin and my siblings. The second subject, my siblings, is the subject that must agree with the verb. Therefore, the sentence reads: “my siblings enjoy” not “my siblings enjoys.”

Pronoun Agreement

when do you use nor What is pronoun agreement? When using a correlative conjunction that has two antecedents before it, the correlative conjunction must agree with the second antecedent.

It is important to maintain pronoun-antecedent agreement when using correlative conjunctions.

Examples:

  • Neither the teacher nor the students like their new textbooks.
    • This sentence has two antecedents: the teacher and the students. The second antecedent, students, is the antecedent that must agree with the pronoun. Therefore, the sentence uses “their” and not “his” or “her.”
  • Neither the students nor the teacher likes her new textbooks.
    • This sentence has two antecedents: the students and the teacher. The second antecedent, teacher, is the antecedent that must agree with the pronoun. Therefore, the sentence uses “her” and not “their.”

Parallel Structure

examples of correlative conjunctions sentences What is parallel structure? Correlative conjunctions call for parallel structure. Parallel structure must be used in order to create balanced sentences. The parts of the sentence that follow the conjunction must be grammatically equal.

Examples:

  • Not only did Jerry bake a cake, but he also prepared a pie.
  • Jerry not only baked a cake but he also prepared a pie.
    • These sentence have two clauses. Each clause is balanced with word order and structure.

Do Not Create a Double Negative with Neither Nor

neither nor is are Using the correlative conjunctions neither and nor have the same rules as using either and or.

Neither and nor are simply a negative form of either and or. Since neither and nor are themselves negative constructions, it is important to not create a double negative when using them.

To make sure you are not using a double negative, simply substitute either/or. If either/or substitutes and no other changes need to be made for the sentence to make sense, you wrote the sentence correctly and did not create a double negative.

Correct example:

  • Neither my friends nor my parents will join me at the movies.
    • With either/or substitution: Either my friends or my parents will join me at the movies.

Incorrect example creating double negative:

  • Neither my friends nor my parents will not join me at the movies.
    • The meaning of this sentence is actually that my friends or my parents will join me, which is not what the speaker is trying to say.

Summary: What are Correlative Conjunctions?

Define correlative conjunction: the definition of correlative conjunction is a set of conjunctions that function in pairs and have corresponding meanings with their pair.

In summary, a correlative conjunction:

  • is pairing of two conjunctions that correlate
  • must be used with balanced words, phrases, and clauses,

must be used with proper grammar