What is a Conjunction

What is a Conjuction: Definition, Types & Examples

What is a Conjunction?

This post ‘What is a Conjunction’ discusses extensively the different types in English with copious examples . A conjunction is a word that connects or joins words, phrases, clauses and sentences. It belongs to the Closed group of the Parts of Speech as all the conjunctions in English can be listed and no further addition can be made as characteristic of the Closed unit of the Parts of Speech.

Types of Conjunctions

There are different types of conjunctions in English as listed below:

Coordinating Conjunctions

A coordinating conjunction joins or links items of equal grammatical weight/status together. It connects each of the Units of Grammar together, that is, a word to another word, a phrase to another phrase, a clause to another clause and a sentence to another sentence. None of the items joined together by a coordinating conjunction is inferior or superior to the other.

A coordinating conjunction is also called a linker. In English, there are three (3) coordination conjunctions: they are: ‘and’, ‘but’ ‘or’ and these linkers must not be used anyhow. ‘And’ usually signifies addition, ‘but’ stipulates contrast, while ‘or’ indicates choice/alternative.

Examples of Coordinating Conjunctions

And (Addition)

  • Bread and butter is a tasty breakfast. (Joins a word with another word)
  • The boy and the girl are college students. (Joins a phrase with another phrase)
  • Despite searching everywhere and (despite) enlisting the help of the police, the car could not be found. (Joins a clause with another clause)
  • We cut the yam and we cooked it. (Joins a sentence with another sentence)

But (Contrast)

  • It is not James but John who woke the baby. (Joins a word with another word).
  • The solution he recommended is not sugar and water but salt and water. (Joins a phrase with another phrase)
  • We prepared for the conference but we could not go. (Joins a clause with another clause)
  • The man likes reading but his wife prefers watching movies. (Joins a sentence with another sentence)

Or (Choice/Alternative)

  • Would you have rice or beans? (joins a word with another word)
  • A sharp knife or a sharp scissors would cut it. (joins a phrase with another phrase)
  • To travel by air or (to travel) by see is acceptable to the organisers. (joins a clause with another clause)
  • Give me a bottle of water or give me a bottle of wine. (joins a sentence with another sentence)

It is imperative to state at this point that coordinating conjunctions are not part of the words, phrases, clauses or sentences they join or connect, hence the name linkers. Their purpose is to link items of equal grammatical status together. The coordinators in English can be syndetic or asyndetic. A syndetic coordination deals with linking two equal grammatical units with an overt coordinator as in:

  • She believes in feminism and so is her friend.
  • Give me a plate of rice or a plate of beans.

But in asyndetic coordination, an overt coordinator is not used to link two equal grammatical units together. See these examples below:

  • The woman sold all her property; it is quite unfortunate.
  • The villagers lost in the land dispute; there was not anger or protest.

Subordinating Conjunctions

A subordinating conjunction joins a dependent or subordinating clause to main verbs or independent clauses. In other words, it connects two items in which one is inferior or subordinated to the other. It is also a type of conjunction that introduces subordinate clauses. It is usually marked by the presence of a subordinators such as: because, where, although, when, that, after, while, why, despite, if, unless, before, until, etc. A subordinating conjunction can also be referred to as a binder. The sentences below exemplify subordination conjunctions. The subordinators in bold type introduces the subordinate clauses:

  • We asked him why he was there. (‘why’ is the subordinator that introduces the clause ‘why he was there’)
  • I could not go because she failed to remind me.
  • Although she did her best, she failed the test.
  • She could not remember when last she had a warm bath.
  • He vowed not to relent until he set a new record.
  • Unless an urgent step is taken, the disease will spread.
  • You may leave if you do not see me by then.

Note that all subordinators are adjuncts. Subordinators can also be simple or complex. Simple subordinators are usually one-word subordinators e. g. since, because, if, although, when, where, etc. Complex subordinators are usually group of words e. g. in other word, no sooner…than, as if, as soon as, etc.

Correlating Conjunctions

We use these types of conjunctions in pairs. They are correlates and are usually in complementary variables or in complementary reciprocity. There is a correlation between the elements making up the conjunction. Examples of correlating conjunctions include: both…and, no sooner had…than, not only…but also, either…or, neither…nor, etc. Consider the sentences below:

  • No sooner had he entered than he left again
  • Either his mother or his father visits him on Sundays.
  • Neither the woman nor her daughter was guilty of the crime.
  • Not only the criminal but also his gangs got trapped in the house.
  • It was both Janet and Jenny who served the punishment.

Semi-coordinating Conjunctions

Some other scholars agreed that these types of conjunctions exist. They share a bit of similarities with the coordinating conjunctions, though they are not exactly coordination conjunctions. Examples include: as well as, as much as, along with, together with, rather than, etc. We should note that they are usually separated by comma from the rest of the elements in the sentences where they occur. See their usage in the sentences below:

  • The goalkeeper, along with the defenders, was responsible for the goal.
  • The girl, as much as her mother, was guilty of the crime.
  • Mary, along with Joseph, dines regularly in the restaurant.
  • The man, together with his son, solved the knotty equation.
  • Clothes, as well as jewelleries, are expensive in Lagos.
  • The innocent boy, rather than his guilty sister, went to jail.

Looking at the examples of semi-coordinating conjunctions above, we see that they are parenthetical; in other words, their removal will not structurally or semantically affect the sentences in which they appear.

Marginal Conjunctions

Some scholars believed that these two words, ‘still’ and ‘yet’ are part of the coordinating conjunctions, but really, they are not. A better description for them is marginal conjunctions. Examples include:

  • She read for the exams yet she failed.
  • I came looking for him several times, still I did not meet him.

However, we cannot use these two marginal conjunctions together as some people do. It would be ungrammatical to say:

* She read for the exams still yet she failed.

NOTE: We cannot use any of the coordinating conjunctions together; but sometimes, we can use these two marginal conjunctions alongside the coordinating conjunctions. This is what makes them marginal rather than being part of the coordinating conjunctions. See the examples below:

  • She paid for the brochure but still she did not get it.
  • You can sit up or better still lie down.
  • They caught him stealing and yet he kept arguing with the police.

If you enjoyed the post ‘What is a Conjunction’, read more on other Parts of Speech.


    1. Thanks, Emmy.
      Conjuncts can also refer to adverbials like however, therefore, namely, etc. which show the relationship in meaning between two independent clauses. Traditionally, this type of adverbial is known as a conjunctive adverb.

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