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Definition of Conjunction (with Examples)A conjunction is a word used to connect words, phrases or clauses.
The words and, but, and or are the conjunctions which spring to mind when people think about conjunctions. However, these are just three very common conjunctions from one of the types of conjunction.
The Types of ConjunctionThere are three types of conjunction:
Coordinate ConjunctionsCoordinate conjunctions are normally used to join like with like. (In other words they join a noun with another noun, an adjective with another adjective, and an adverb with another adverb, etc.)
The most common ones are and, but and or.
Examples of Coordinate ConjunctionsHere are some examples of coordinate conjunctions (shaded):
- The comment was blunt but effective. (Here the conjunction joins two adjectives.)
- Familiarity breeds contempt...and children. (Here the conjunction joins two nouns.)
- If a man should challenge me to a duel, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place to kill him. (Here the first conjunction joins two adverbs (kindly and forgivingly). The second joins two verbs (take and lead).)
Correlative ConjunctionsCorrelative conjunctions are used in pairs to join alternatives or equal elements. The most common pairs are either/or, neither/nor, and not only/but also.
Examples of Correlative ConjunctionsHere are some examples of correlative conjunctions (shaded):
- I could neither laugh nor cry.
- She was not only smart but also beautiful.
Subordinate ConjunctionsSubordinate conjunctions are used to join subordinate clauses to main clauses. Common examples are although, because, since, unless, until, and while.
Examples of Subordinate ConjunctionsHere are some examples of subordinate conjunctions (shaded):
- We'll stay here while the weather is fine.
- I am not attending the meeting until the game has finished.
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There is often confusion over whether to use a comma before a coordinate conjunction (e.g., and, but). When a coordinate conjunction ends a list of three or more things, it all depends on whether you're following the Oxford Comma convention. For example:
- Coffee, milk, and sugar (This is correct for those following the Oxford Comma convention.)
- Coffee, milk and sugar (This is correct for those not following the Oxford Comma convention.)
- Coffee and milk (This is correct for everyone.)
- Coffee, and milk (This is wrong for everyone.)
- She can sing, and dance.
- She can sing, and she can dance.
Can you start a sentence with a conjunction (e.g., and, but)? What are coordinate conjunctions? What are correlative conjunctions? What are subordinate conjunctions? What are phrases? What are clauses? What is an independent clause? Commas before conjunctions What is the Oxford Comma convention? More on conjunctions Test on conjunctions Glossary of grammatical terms