Top 3 Conjunctions in English

Learning about the Conjunctions "And," "Or," and "But"

The three most common conjunctions in English are "and," "or," and "but." In this lesson, we will focus on these three conjunctions, but before we do, let's cover some key points about conjunctions.

In English, there are more than 50 common conjunctions, which are divided into three categories:

(1) Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions join like with like. For example, they join a noun with another noun, an adjective with another adjective, or a phrase with another phrase.
  • Jack and Jill visited Paris.
  • (This coordinating conjunction joins a noun with another noun.)
  • The dog is loud but friendly.
  • (This one joins an adjective with another adjective.)
  • I cannot eat fish with eyes or octopus tentacles.
  • (This one joins a phrase with another phrase.)

(2) Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions join subordinate clauses to main clauses. Common examples are "although," "because," "if," "since," "unless," "until," and "while."
  • Grill the cheese until it bubbles.
  • (This subordinating conjunction heads the subordinate clause "until it bubbles," joining it to the main clause "Grill the cheese.")
  • If the sharks return, climb onto the rocks.
  • (This one heads the subordinate clause "If the sharks return," joining it to the main clause "climb onto the rocks.")

(3) Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative 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."
  • I will sell either my watch or my bike.
  • (This correlative conjunction joins two alternatives. It joins two noun phrases.)
  • She cannot not only sing but also dance.
  • (This one joins two equal elements. It joins two verbs.)

"And," "Or," and "But"

The three most common conjunctions in English are "and," "or," and "but." All three are coordinating conjunctions. In short, they are used as follows:
  • "And" is used for addition.
    • Please buy me an apple and a pear.
  • "Or" is used for choices or alternatives.
    • Please buy me an apple or a pear.
  • "But" is used for contrast.
    • Please buy me an apple but not a pear.

Table of Contents

  • 10 Example Sentences Using "And"
  • 10 Example Sentences Using "Or"
  • 10 Example Sentences Using "But"
  • Interactive Exercise
  • "And," "Or," and "But" in Other Languages
  • Common Questions about "And," "Or" and "But"
    • Can you start a sentence with "and"?
    • Is there a comma before "and"?
    • Does "or" make the subject plural?
  • Test Time!
top 3 conjunctions in English

10 Example Sentences Using "And"

Here are 10 simple sentences with the coordinating conjunction "and." Remember that "and" is used for addition.
  • Tom and Jerry are friends.
  • Toby likes apples and bananas.
  • John plays soccer and basketball on weekends.
  • The cat is small and fluffy.
  • I wear my hat and gloves when it's cold.
  • I have a pen and a pencil in my bag.
  • We eat breakfast and then go to school.
  • Anne watches TV and does her homework in the evening.
  • We listen to music and read books in our free time.
  • The sky is blue, and the grass is green.
Notice that the word "and" can join two single words (e.g., a noun with another noun, an adjective with another adjective, a verb with another verb), two phrases, and even two clauses. However, when teaching "and" to beginners, focus on how "and" adds one thing to another.

Also, notice that there is a comma before "and" in the last example. This is correct because the "and" joins two independent clauses (i.e., two clauses that could be standalone sentences). In other words, "The sky is blue" could be a sentence, and "the grass is green" could be a sentence. This is a technical point that you could raise with advanced students.

10 Example Sentences Using "Or"

Here are 10 simple sentences with the coordinating conjunction "or." Remember that "or" is used for alternatives.
  • Do you want tea or coffee?
  • Do you prefer summer or winter?
  • You can have an apple or a banana.
  • Should we go to the park or the zoo?
  • Shall I paint the door red or blue?
  • Would you like to play outside or in the garden?
  • Should I wear the green shirt or the yellow one?
  • Shall we travel by bus or train?
  • Will you play soccer or will you do your homework this afternoon?
  • You can watch a movie, or you can read a book.
Notice that the word "or" can join two single words, two phrases, and even two clauses. However, when teaching "or" to beginners, focus on how "or" presents an alternative.

Once again, notice that there is a comma before "or" in the last example. As before with "and," this is correct because the "or" joins two independent clauses.

10 Example Sentences Using "But"

Here are 10 simple sentences with the coordinating conjunction "but." Remember that "but" is used for contrast.
  • The cat is old but playful.
  • The shirt is nice but too expensive.
  • This spider is small but dangerous.
  • I want to go outside but it is raining.
  • He likes to read books but not magazines.
  • I tried to call you but there was no answer.
  • The robot is now fast but inaccurate.
  • They wanted to stay but had to leave early.
  • She can cook, but she prefers to bake.
  • The food is tasty, but it is too expensive.
As before, notice that the word "but" can join two single words, two phrases, and even two clauses. However, when teaching "but" to beginners, focus on how it offers a contrast.

Notice that there is a comma before "but" in the last two examples. This is correct because, in each example, the "but" joins two independent clauses.

Interactive Exercise

It's your go. Select the correct conjunction:

"And," "Or," and "But" in Other Languages

The concepts of addition, alternative, and contrast ("and," "or," and "but" respectively) are usually well understood by students, even if they can't explain the conjunctions using these terms. If you're teaching non-English speaking students, the following table of common translations might help you kickstart this lesson.
French German Spanish Italian Russian Arabic
and et und y e и (i) و (wa)
or ou oder o o или (ili) أو ('aw)
but mais aber pero ma но (no) لكن (lakin)

Common Questions about "And," "Or" and "But"

Below are the answers to some common questions related to "and," "or," and "but." These are just the quick answers. Each of these points has its own lesson with an interactive test.

Can you start a sentence with "and"?

Yes. You can start a sentence with "And." However, when you do this, you are not using "and" as a conjunction but as a conjunctive adverb like "however," "in addition," and "consequently."
  • You cannot swim in the lake. And, do not feed the ducks! correct tick
  • (Notice there is a comma after "And." This is acceptable – but not essential – when using "and" as a conjunctive adverb.)
You can also use "or" and "but" in the same way. Read more about starting sentences with "conjunctions."

Is there a comma before "and"?

The answer to this question is quite complicated. Here is the simplest version I can muster:
  • When "and" joins two things, do not use a comma unless those two things are independent clauses.
  • For example:
    • I like apples and pears. correct tick
    • I like apples, and he likes pears. correct tick
    • ("I like apples" and "he likes pears" are independent clauses (i.e., they could be standalone sentences). So, you need a comma before "and.")
  • When "and" joins more than two things, do not use a comma unless your geographic region uses the Oxford Comma (also called the "serial comma").
  • For example:
    • I like apples, pears and cherries. correct tick (small British flag)
    • I like apples, pears, and cherries. correct tick (small American flag)
    • (Somewhat ironically, the Oxford Comma, which is named after the British Oxford University Press, is far more common in the US than the UK.)
These comma rules apply equally to "or" and "but." Read more about using commas before conjunctions.

Does "or" make the subject plural?

This learning point has been framed like a question, but, in reality, this is not a common question. It is, however, the right question to ask to avoid a common writing error on subject-verb agreement. Look at this example:
  • Jack and Jill are available for the meeting. correct tick
"Jack" is singular, and "Jill" is singular. When joined by "and," the subject becomes plural. Therefore, "are" is correct. Now, look at this example:
  • Jack or Jill is available for the meeting. correct tick
With "or," the subject stays singular. In other words, "or" does not conjoin like "and" does. So, "is" is correct. Read more about conjoining and subject-verb agreement (see Issue 8). Read about other singular–plural issues with "or."
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.