Conjunctions – Meaning and Types

Conjunctions – Definition and Concept

A conjunction is a part of speech that connects two or more nouns, pronouns, phrases, coordinate clauses, main clauses and subordinate clauses, etc.

  • You have to be fast and agile to survive the Yo-yo endurance test. (Adjective)
  • Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated. (nouns)
  • As far as your future in this firm is considered, you’re done. (coordinate clauses)
  • After he finished his work, he left for home. (main + subordinate clause)

In this article, we study the different types of conjunctions and their usage.

At the end of the article, the reader will be able to:

  • Identify and classify the conjunctions into different types
  • Understand the placement of a conjunction
  • Understand the idea of conjunctive adverbs and distinguish them from conjunctions

Types of Conjunctions

A conjunction is basically of three main types. We study them as follows.

Coordinate Conjunctions

Coordinate Conjunctions link nouns, pronouns, adjectives, coordinate clauses, and other parts of speech. These joiners are used with all kinds of phrases, clauses, and parts of speech that are similar or the same in terms of grammar.

Consider the following examples:

  • You’ve to be swift but inconspicuous while retrieving the folder. (two adjectives)
  • The manager and the client got into a heated argument. (two nouns)
  • You can finish your homework now or begin early tomorrow. (two phrases)
  • He was late for the meeting yet he was welcomed in gladly. (two coordinate clauses)

In each of the examples above, the conjunctions join equivalent parts of speech, phrases or clauses. In the first example, the conjunction but joins two adjectives, in the second example the conjunction and joins two nouns, in the third example the conjunction or joins two verb phrases and in the last example the conjunction yet joins two independent clauses. Since the independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, they’re called coordinate clauses.

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But, and, or, for, yet, so and nor are the basic examples of coordinating conjunctions used in the English language.

Subordinate Conjunctions

Subordinate Conjunctions are used to link clauses which are not equivalent. They’re used to join a subordinating clause with a main clause to add meaning to the sentence. Different words in the English language can work as a subordinating conjunction. We study them here in the following examples.

  • Although you finished first, you’re disqualified from the competition.
  • You’re disqualified from the competition because you failed the dope test.
  • We verified whether he took any type of muscle stimulant.
  • No matter how you put it, failure of the dope test prompts immediate disqualification.
  • They have to wait until we set up an enquiry committee to appeal against the ban.
  • The player was unsure how the steroids entered his bloodstream.

In each of the examples above, the subordinate clause (in italics) is linked to the main clause using the conjunction. It is called a subordinate clause because it is dependent on the main clause for either literal or contextual meaning. Thus the two clauses are not equivalent.

Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are a special kind of coordinate conjunctions. They do the same job as coordinate conjunctions, which is to link nouns, pronouns, adjectives, coordinate clauses, etc., and are also called two-word conjunctions.

Let us look at a few examples:

  • We have to determine whether this student needs the full course or the crash course.
  • Both the manager and the client refused to take the blame.
  • They were neither at the attic nor at the basement.
  • The resistance not only staged the coup but also killed the monarch.
  • You either walk in there or stay here until we come back.
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Such conjunctions are basically coordinate conjunctions, but we learn them separately. The different correlative conjunctions used are ‘whether…or’, ‘either…or’, ‘neither…nor’, ‘not only…but also’, ‘both…and’ and ‘so…as’.

Conjunctive Adverbs

While conjunctions can be simply identified using their basic definition, we’ve another part of speech that operates just like a conjunction but is not one. We learn that word class here.

When an adverb to a verb of a clause is used to join that clause to another clause, we call those adverbs as conjunctive adverbs. Let us look at a few examples:

  • You’ve received multiple negative points, therefore you’ll serve detention today.
  • She needs a doctor right now, otherwise she won’t survive.
  • The pigeons got through the mesh; in addition they uprooted my fresh saplings.
  • He started earlier than usual; however he couldn’t complete the assignment.
  • The wickets kept falling at one end, on the other hand he scored boundaries like a piece of cake.

In the above examples, the words in boldface not only join the clauses, but also describe the verbs in the other clause. These words or phrases are primarily adverbs, performing the job of conjunctions. Hence they are called as conjunctive adverbs. On the other hand, conjunctions simply link words and phrases.


Hence the basic study of conjunctions is simply understanding their identification and usage.