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What are Conjunctions?


Question: What are Conjunctions?
Conjunctions are used to join two sentences into one sentence by showing a relationship between the two. There are a number of conjunctions used in English including co-ordinating conjunctions and subordinate conjunctions. Each type of conjunction is explained below, as well including a discussion of FANBOYS as a means of helping you remember important conjunctions.

Conjunctions are used to link two clauses together. In other words, if you have two separate sentences you can join them by using a conjunction. Here are some examples with conjunctions highlighted in bold. Conjunctions are one of the eight parts of speech

He was interested in joining the team, but he couldn't come to practice.
Peter bought a new TV because his old one broke.
Let's go to a restaurant or get something quick and easy to cook.

Notice how the conjunctions in the above examples also define the relationship between the two clauses.

He was interested in joining the team, but he couldn't come to practice.

But shows that the first part of the sentences 'He was interested in joining the team' was not possible because of the second part of the sentence 'he couldn't come to practice'.

Peter bought a new TV because his old one broke.

In this sentence the second clause gives the reason for the action in the first clause 'Peter bought a new TV' using the conjunction because.

Let's go to a restaurant or get something quick and easy to cook.

In this example, the conjunction or indicates a choice between the first clause and the second clause.

Conjunction Types

There are two types of conjunctions in English. The first type are called co-ordinating conjunctions, and the second type are called subordinating conjunctions. These terms refer to whether clauses are independent or dependent on another clause. In other words, whether a clause could stand on its own as a sentence without the other.

Co-ordinating Conjunctions

Co-ordinating conjunctions are used to join two independent clauses. In other words, two sentences that could stand alone can be joined by a co-ordinating conjunction. Co-ordinating conjunctions include and, but and or. Here are some examples to help explain co-ordinating conjunctions:

First Sentence

Tim enjoys playing tennis.

Second Sentence

Tim Enjoys doing yoga.

Full Sentence Using a Co-ordinating Conjunction

Tim enjoys playing tennis and doing yoga.

NOTE: When using the same verb, it is possible to connect the two sentences by a co-ordinating conjunction without the same verb. This is referred to as parallel structure. For example: He enjoys playing golf and tennis.

First Sentence

Martha wants to go on holiday.

Second Sentence

Martha has to work.

Full Sentence Using a Co-ordinating Conjunction

Martha wants to go on holiday, but she has to work.

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating clauses take the conjunctions such as because, when, that or which. Subordinating conjunctions connect an independent and a dependent clause. This means that one clause can stand on its own, but the other clause can not. It is dependent on the other clause to make sense.

First Sentence (independent clause)

He'll have some lunch.

Second Clause (dependent clause)

...when he arrives.

Full Sentence Using a Subordinating Conjunction

He'll have some lunch when he arrives.

First Sentence (independent clause)

Alison purchased the book.

Second Sentence (changed to a dependent clause)

The book was on the shelf.

Full Sentence Using a Subordinating Conjunction

Alison purchased the book which was on the shelf.

More information on subordinate clauses such as concessive clauses, time clauses, etc.

Conjunctions and Punctuation

Commas are often used with conjunctions in more complex structures:

Alexander felt that he should be able to attend the camp, but his parents insisted that he stay home to focus on his studies.

Commas are not required in shorter sentences:

I didn't go because I didn't feel well.

Help Remembering Conjunctions: FANBOYS

Many English books refer to principal conjunctions as FANBOYS. This is an acronym used to help you remember the following conjunctions:

F - for
A - and
N - nor
B - but
O - or
Y - yet
S - so

Teachers might enjoy this lesson on paired conjunctions to help students practice more advanced uses of conjunctions.

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