Let’s Talk Conjunctions Articles

What is a conjunction? Oh sure, you’ve heard the word over and over most of your life, but what exactly is a conjunction? If you’re of a certain age, you’ve probably watched “Schoolhouse Rock” and learned that a conjunction is a word that hooks up “words and phrases and clauses.” But in order to understand conjunctions, we need to understand what words, phrases, and clauses they combine and why.

Words: Okay, we all know what a word is.

Phrases: A phrase is a series or words that combine to form a fragment but lack a specific predicate, such as along the way or the big house. There are many different kinds of phrases:

  • Participial phrases – following his lead
  • Adverbial phrases – happily ever after
  • Prepositional phrases – under the boardwalk
  • Infinitive phrases – to watch the movie
  • Appositive phrases – my favorite sister
  • Noun phrases – the rainy day

Clauses: A clause is a series of words containing a subject and a verb, such as she loves flowers. There are two main types of clauses—independent and dependent:

  • Independent clauses – Also known as a main clause, this type of clause contains a subject and a verb that form one complete thought.
    • The milk carton is empty!
  • Dependent clauses – These clauses also contain a subject and a verb, but they do not form one complete thought. Here are a few types:
    • Subordinate clauses – These clauses are called subordinate because they have a subject and a verb but contains a subordinating conjunction, which makes the clause incomplete.
      • As I watched the leaves change colors
    • Relative clauses – Similar to subordinate clause, the relative clause contains a subject and a verb but also begins with a relative pronoun or a relative adverb.
      • Which was the reason he fell in the first place
      • When the dog barks
    • Noun clauses – A noun clause is a series of words that contains a subject and a verb and can function on its own as a noun.
      • Dawn is my least favorite time of the day. Replace the noun dawn with a noun phrase, such as the moment my alarm goes off and you have a noun phrase.

When writing, we use three types of conjunctions to combine our words, phrases, and clauses:

  • Coordinating
  • Subordinating
  • Correlative

Coordinating: Fondly known as FANBOYS, the coordinating conjunctions are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. We use these conjunctions to connect words, phrases, or independent clauses.

  • High or low
  • The red one and the green one
  • I have to leave, but I’ll miss you.

Subordinating: The subordinating conjunction is used to connect dependent clauses with independent clauses. Some examples of subordinating conjunctions are as, whenever, until, since, because, after, unless, and before.

  • I realized it was finally fall as I watched the leaves change color.
  • Before you leave, you should stop and visit the market.
  • When the dog barks, I know it’s time for her walk.

Correlative: Correlative conjunctions come in pairs to show a connection or contrast between two things. Pairs like both/and, either/or, and neither/nor are correlative conjunctions and are used in the same manner as coordinating conjunctions.

  • Neither you nor I enjoyed the movie.
  • Both Sam and Fred took the train.
  • Either pizza or popcorn was her favorite food.

All of this is based on simple sentence structure, but the concepts all hold true even as you add complex verb phrases or multiple independent clauses to build more complex sentences.

What’s your favorite subordinating conjunction? Leave a comment and tell me all about it!

Happy writing!


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