What Is a Conjunction? Examples and Uses

Ah, the parts of speech—the categories we place words into. Depending on which grammarian you ask, there are either eight or nine parts of speech. Nouns, for example, are things, people, places, and ideas. Verbs are action words, like go and walk and reciprocate

But what about some of the words that seem to connect ideas, like and and but and while

These are conjunctions, the topic of today’s post where we’ll answer the question “what is a conjunction?”

What Is a Conjunction?

So, what is a conjunction? A conjunction is a “small class of words” that “function as connectors between words, phrases, clauses, or sentences, such as and, because, but, however,”  according to Dictionary.com.

The key word there is connect. Conjunctions are words that join parts of speech together to make more complex sentences.

Some examples of conjunctions include for, and, nor, but, although, and while. (Keep reading for a more complete list!)

So what do conjunctions do for us? They let us join ideas together, as well as be more succinct. 

Let’s say we wanted to say, “The pillows were white. The sheets were white. The quilt was black.”

That’s a mouthful, and perhaps too repetitive. What could we do? Well, we could use conjunctions to join these things together. Like this:

  • “The pillows and sheets were white, but the quilt was black.”

*Notice how the use of the conjunction but highlights the contrast between white and black.

There are several types of conjunction, described below.

Types of Conjunctions

The three main types of conjunctions are coordinating, correlative, and subordinating.

Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions join elements of equal grammatical weight—like a noun to a noun or an independent clause to an independent clause. (An independent clause is a phrase that can stand on its own.)

For example:

  • “I like apples and oranges.”

Above, the conjunction and combines the nouns apples and oranges.

  • “I like the market, but I don’t like the parking.”

Here, the conjunction but combines the independent clauses “I like the market” and “I don’t like parking.” Each one of those phrases could be its own sentence, but they are combined by a coordinating conjunction.

Folks often use the mnemonic FANBOYS to remember the coordinating conjunctions: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So.

Special note: For is more frequently used as a preposition. “This is for you”—preposition. “He did that for her”—preposition. When used as a conjunction, it means “because.” This is a more literary, archaic-sounding usage. For example, “He found no solace in the crowd, for no one would console him.”

Correlative Conjunctions 

Correlative conjunctions are pairs of conjunctions that work together, like neither/nor and rather/than.

For example:

  • “Bertie likes neither the flowers nor the vase.”
  • “I would rather eat apples than eat oranges.”

Subordinating Conjunctions 

A subordinating conjunction creates a subordinate clause—also called a dependent clause— and links it to an independent clause. A dependent clause is a phrase that can’t stand on its own as a sentence.

For example, “when I lie down” is a dependent clause, because it needs to be connected to an independent clause, like “I shut the blinds.” The conjunction when connects these phrases and subordinates “I lie down.”

  • “I shut the blinds when I lie down.”

Subordinating conjunctions can go at the beginning of sentences too!

  • When I lie down, I shut the blinds.”

Subordinating conjunctions include because, since, although, and while.

Examples of Popular Conjunctions

Here are some of the most common conjunctions:

Coordinating Conjunctions

  • For
  • And 
  • Nor
  • But
  • Or 
  • Yet
  • So

Correlative Conjunctions

  • Either/or
  • Neither/nor
  • Both/and
  • Not only/but also
  • As/as
  • No sooner/than
  • If/then

Subordinating Conjunctions

  • Although 
  • Because 
  • Before 
  • By the time 
  • In case
  • Now that
  • Since
  • Unless
  • When
  • Whether or not
  • While

Popular Conjunctions Used Correctly

Let’s look at some examples of conjunctions used correctly. 

Examples of Coordinating Conjunctions

  • “He battled his demons, for they were haunting him.”
  • “He enjoys science fiction, and he enjoys realistic dramas.”
  • “Clarise wanted to buy the candy bar, but her dad wouldn’t let her.”
  • “She had to make a choice: this or that.”

Examples of Correlative Conjunctions

  • Either they would find a source of water, or they would succumb to dehydration.”
  • Neither crying nor pleading would persuade her.”
  • “That elephant is as big as a small house!”
  • No sooner had he finished sweeping the walkway than a windstorm covered it with leaves.”

Examples of Subordinating Conjunctions

  • Although Melinda likes horror, she does not like gore.”
  • “Natalie was sunburned because she forgot her sunscreen.”
  • “We can get out the swimsuits now that the summer is here.”
  • “Janice prefers cake, while her sister prefers pie.”

So there you have it. Conjunctions are words that connect other words and phrases. The types of conjunctions are coordinating, correlative, and subordinating. Be sure to check out the rest of the EditorNinja blog for more explorations of English grammar!

Need Help with Your Conjunctions and More?

Getting conjunctions right in your writing or speech is crucial for clear and effective communication. Many writers and content producers still occasionally trip up over these words, which can result in content that confuses the reader or, even worse, makes them think you aren’t a credible source.

If you find conjunctions challenging or simply don’t want to worry about them in the future, enlist EditorNinja’s professional editing services. We’ll ensure that your writing is clear, correct, and professional. Schedule a no-stress, no-risk, super-friendly discussion with our team to discuss your editing needs today!