What is a Conjunction? Definition, Example of Grammatical Conjunctions

Conjunction definition: A conjunction is a part of speech that connects clauses or sentences. A conjunction also connects coordinating words in the same clause.

What is a Conjunction in Grammar?

A conjunction is a part of speech that acts as a connector.

The word itself literally means join (con-) together (junct).

Conjunctions are used to connect clauses, sentences, or words in writing. Conjunctions serve to join together ideas or words.

Conjunction Examples:

  • Timmy wanted to ride his bike and he wanted to go to the park.
  • Sofia did not like bananas but she loved apples.
  • I play baseball, soccer, and football for my school.

Types of Conjunctions

What is conjunction There are few primary types of conjunctions in English: coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, and correlative conjunctions.

Coordinating Conjunctions

What are coordinating conjunctions? Coordinating conjunctions connect words, phrases, and clauses. They link ideas or concepts.

A coordinating conjunction gives equal emphasis or importance to clauses, phrases, and words. Use coordinating conjunctions when you want to show equality.

Coordinating Conjunctions List:

  • and
  • but
  • for
  • nor
  • or
  • so
  • yet

What is a conjuction You can remember the list of coordinating conjunctions with the mnemonic FANBOYS > For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So.

Examples:

  • I tried to answer the question, but I did not have enough time.
    • In this example, each clause has equal weight. It is equally important that “I tried” and that “I did not have enough time.”
  • You may bring a main dish or a side dish to the party.
    • In this example, the “main dish” and “side dish” carry the same importance. It does not matter which you bring, just bring one.

When a coordinating conjunction joins two long independent clauses, a comma is used before the conjunction.

  • The doctor provided the results, yet he did not explain them to us and we were further confused.
  • The company, Niantic Inc., fixed the issue Tuesday with an app update, but the episode is a reminder of how easy it is for smartphone users to give carte blanche access to private data—and how much other information apps like this regularly collect. –The Wall Street Journal

Furthermore, use a serial (Oxford) comma to separate a list, including a comma before the conjunction.

  • Please buy eggs, milk, and cheese at the store.

Subordinating Conjunctions

What is an conjunction What are subordinating conjunctions? Subordinating conjunctions connect two clauses in complex sentences. One clause is independent (main clause) and the other clause is dependent (subordinating clause). The first word in the dependent clause is a subordinating conjunction.

Subordinating Conjunctions List

Here is a list, albeit not exhaustive, of subordinating conjunctions.

  • After
  • Although
  • As
  • Because
  • Before
  • Even if
  • Even though
  • If
  • In order that
  • Once
  • Provided that
  • Rather than
  • Since
  • So that
  • Than
  • That
  • Though
  • Unless
  • Until
  • When
  • Whenever
  • Where
  • Whereas
  • Wherever
  • Whether
  • While
  • Why

As you can see, there are many more subordinating conjunctions, so there isn’t an easy memory trick like there is with coordinating conjunctions.

Commas are placed after the subordinate clause when the clause begins the sentence.

  • After a long interview, the team hired Fernando.
  • Although Washington frequently dips below 32 degrees in the winter months, the bottom of ponds and rivers do not get cold enough to freeze. –The Washington Post

If the subordinating clause is at the end of the sentence, no comma is needed.

  • The team hired Fernando after a long interview.

Correlative Conjunctions

What are correlative conjunctions? Correlative conjunctions are conjunctions that work in tandem to join clauses or phrases of equal weight.

  • My brother will begin either trade school or community college in the fall.
  • He is not only a strong student but also a gifted athlete.

Use a comma before the second coordinating conjunctions when they join two lengthy independent clauses.

  • Not only did she graduate with honors, but she also gave the commencement speech.

Can You Start a Sentence With a Conjunction?

conjunction function It is possible to start a sentence with a conjunction. However, many writing teachers will tell novice writers to avoid this.

Beginning a sentence with a conjunction can add a certain rhythm to your prose, but it isn’t a good habit to do generally. It is usually done for stylistic effect.

For this reason (as mentioned above), many teachers will tell novice writers to avoid doing so, which isn’t an absolute rule but a good, general one. Consistently having sentences that start with conjunctions is a sign of disjointed or novice writing.

Common Questions About Conjunctions

Every once in awhile I get random questions sent to me on Twitter or email about conjunctions, so I wanted to put a specific section on here addressing some of the more common conjunctions questions.

Is The a Conjunction?

  • The is what is known as the definite article. You can read more about it here.

Is To a Conjunction?

  • To is what is known as a preposition. You can read more about those here.

Is But a Conjunction?

  • But is a coordinating conjunction. See above for more information.

Is If a Conjunction?

  • If is a subordinating conjunction. See above for more information.

Is Although a Conjunction?

  • Although is a subordinating conjunction. See above for more information.

Is Of a Conjunction?

  • Of is a preposition.

Is However a Conjunction?

  • However is conjunctive adverb. It cannot join independent clauses together.
    • I went to the movies, however, I’m not sure why I did. (Incorrect)
    • I went to the movies; however, I’m not sure why I did. (Correct)

Is By a Conjunction?

  • No. By is a preposition.

Summary: What are Conjunctions?

Define conjunctions: The definition of a conjunction is a word used to connect clauses or sentences or to coordinate words in the same clause.

To sum up, a conjunction is:

  • a part of speech
  • a word or paring of words that joins phrases, clauses, or words
  • essential to making writing complex and concise