Coordinating Conjunctions

In grammar, conjunction is a part of speech that connects words, phrases, or clauses that are called the conjuncts of the conjunctions. The term discourse marker is mostly used for conjunctions joining sentences. This definition may overlap with that of other parts of speech, so what constitutes a “conjunction” must be defined for each language. In English a given word may have several senses, being either a preposition or conjunction depending on the syntax of the sentence. For example, “after” is a preposition in “he left after the fight”, but it is a conjunction in “he left after they fought”. In general, a conjunction is an invariable (non-inflected) grammatical particle and it may or may not stand between the items conjoined.

Conjunctions are used to connect words, phrases or clauses. They are also called as linking words or joiner words. The main types of conjunctions are Coordinating Conjunctions, Subordinating Conjunctions and Correlative Conjunctions.

Coordinating Conjunctions

These conjunctions are: for, and, nor/not, but, or, yet, and so. An easy way to remember them is to use the mnemonic acronym: FANBOYS.

Coordinating Conjunctions

An easy way to recollect is to remember the mnemonic acronym FANBOYS.


NOTE: Generally, a comma is placed prior to a coordinating conjunction.

1. Coordinating conjunctions joins equals: word to word, phrase to phrase, clause to clause.

word to word: Children like fun and frolic.
phrase to phrase: They are camping by the lakeside or at the beach.
clause to clause: What you do and what you say are always different.

2. Coordinating conjunctions are generally used in between and not at the beginning or at the end.

He likes milk, but he does not like tea.
But he does not like tea, as he likes milk.

Note: It is now generally agreed that a sentence may begin with a coordinating conjunction like and, but, or yet. There is also a “myth” that a sentence should never begin with because. Because is a subordinating conjunction and introduces a dependent clause. It may start a sentence when the main clause follows the dependent clause. Nowadays, to start a sentence with a conjunction, or to place a conjunction in the middle, is largely a matter of the writer’s individual style.

3. Coordinating conjunctions form looser bindings than other conjunctions.

– He submitted his assignment late, and he obtained a poor grade. (very loose)
– He submitted his assignment late, so he obtained a poor grade. (loose)
– Since he submitted his assignment late, he obtained a poor grade. (tight) (uses ‘since’, which is a subordinate conjunction)
– He submitted his assignment late; therefore, he obtained a poor grade. (very tight, uses ‘therefore’, which is a subordinate conjunction/conjunctive adverb)

Punctuation of Coordinating Conjunctions

1.When joining two words/ phrases/ clauses: No comma

words:  fun and frolic.
phrases: by the lakeside or at the beach.
clauses: What you do and what you say

2. When joining three words/ phrases/ clauses: Place commas between the elements

words: milk, tea, and coffee.
phrases: at the beach, by the ocean, or in the mountains
clauses: what you do, what you say, and what you think

(Note: A comma prior to ‘and’ is known as an Oxford comma.)

3. When joining two independent clauses; thereby, creating a compound sentence: Place comma prior to the coordinating conjunction.

– He was lethargic, so he failed in his exam.
– Jack drank the milk, but Jill drank the lemonade.

Here are some examples of coordinating conjunctions in English and what they do:

Acronym for coordinating conjunctions: FANBOYS

  • For – presents rationale (“They do not gamble or smoke, for they are ascetics.”)
  • And – presents non-contrasting item(s) or idea(s) (“They gamble, and they smoke.”)
  • Nor – presents a non-contrasting negative idea (“They do not gamble, nor do they smoke.”)
  • But – presents a contrast or exception (“They gamble, but they don’t smoke.”)
  • Or – presents an alternative item or idea (“Every day they gamble, or they smoke.”)
  • Yet – presents a contrast or exception (“They gamble, yet they don’t smoke.”)
  • So – presents a consequence (“He gambled well last night, so he smoked a cigar to celebrate.”)

Other coordinating conjunctions are:
“neither” (“They don’t gamble; neither do they smoke”),
“no more” (“They don’t gamble; no more do they smoke”), and
“only” (“They gamble, only they don’t win”).

Types of coordinating conjunctions include cumulative conjunctions, adversative conjunctions, alternative conjunctions, and illative conjunctions.

1. Paul; Adams, Michael (2009). How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction (2nd ed.). New York: Pearson Longman. ISBN 978-0-205-60550-7.
2. Merriam-Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage. Penguin. 2002. ISBN 9780877796336.
3. Garner, Bryan A. (2016). Garner’s Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-049148-2.
5. Burchfield, R. W., ed. (1996). Fowler’s Modern English Usage (3rd ed.)

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