The 4 Types of Conjunctions and When to Use Them
Conjunctions are a part of daily life for anyone who speaks, reads, or writes in English. They are words—or sometimes a small group of words—that join together other words or phrases. In fact, you’ve already read several conjunctions in this paragraph!
Just about all English-based communication involves one of the four types of conjunctions and knowing when to use th. Whether you’re writing a blog or having a simple conversation with a friend, you likely cannot escape using this part of speech. As long as you’re using proper grammar, that is! Correct conjunction usage in written and verbal communication is just as important as appropriate punctuation in writing. And in addition to showing off your mastery of the language, conjunctions help illustrate your unique style of speaking and writing.
So what exactly are conjunctions? How do they differ from other parts of speech? How many different types of conjunctions are there, and what’s the difference between each type? Here’s all the information you need about these crucial sentence elements, as well as advice on how and when to use them.
What are Conjunctions?
You might be a few years removed from the elementary school English class in which you learned about the different parts of speech. So you might not remember that conjunctions are some of the most important building blocks of the English language.
Basically, a conjunction helps clarify your message because it links together your ideas. And since conjunctions join words, phrases, and clauses together, they help you create longer and more elegant sentences. Without these seemingly small sentence elements, your writing and speech would be chopped up into short individual sentences that are completely separate from each other. Here’s an example of how a conjunction or two can really improve your communication:
- I like the band. I went to their concert. I had a great time.
- I like the band, so I went to their concert and had a great time!
As you can see, adding conjunctions to these simple ideas makes one smooth sentence that flows well as opposed to three sentences that aren’t tied together at all. Instead of a staccato way of communicating, conjunctions help add eloquence to the language that you use.
A fringe benefit is that you can show your style by how you use conjunctions. In both your speech and your writing, you choose certain words and phrases that you’re comfortable with and that you feel best convey your message. Each time you add a new conjunction to your repertoire, you are enhancing and expanding your unique style. Think of conjunctions as tools in your lingual toolbox. The more tools you have, the more art you’re able to create. So learn as many conjunctions as you can to broaden your grammatical knowledge!
Conjunctions aren’t the only extremely important elements in the English language. In fact, there are eight main parts of speech—and conjunctions are just one of them.
What are the main parts of speech?
You want to use proper grammar in all your written and verbal communication. And to speak and write elegantly, you should learn about the eight main parts of speech used in the English language. Since you’ve already been reminded what a conjunction is, here is a quick refresher on the remaining seven important categories of grammar and some advice on their usage:
- Nouns. Use these words to name something, someone, or someplace. Remember that common nouns are general, such as “city” or “musician.” Proper nouns name a specific thing and should be capitalized, as in “Chicago” or “John Lennon.”
- Pronouns. These helpful words describe a person, place, or thing so you don’t have to be redundant. For example, you can substitute “she,” “he,” or “they” instead of constantly using an individual’s name.
- Adjectives. Nothing beats a descriptive word to add richness to your writing or conversation! Adjectives are words that describe the noun you’re talking about. They’re the difference between “a dinner” and “a delicious dinner” or “a dog” and “an adorable, sweet dog.”
- Verbs. You’ve probably never written or spoken a sentence without a verb. These are words that convey actions. Even in a simple statement like “Go home,” you’re using the verb “go.”
- Adverbs. These are also descriptive words. However, instead of describing a noun, adverbs describe and modify adjectives, verbs, or others. For example, you might say “I drove home quickly.” In this sentence, “quickly” is the adverb because it describes how you drove.
- Prepositions. Sometimes you have to show how the words in your sentence relate to each other. And prepositions do that for you! Small words like “in,” “on,” and “for” are commonly used prepositions.
- Articles. You use articles in every grammatically correct sentence. Words like “the,” “a,” and “an” help your listener or reader understand whether you’re referring to something general or specific, singular or plural. Just remember that there are both definite and indefinite articles, so make sure you use the correct one!
Are you having flashbacks to fifth-grade English class? Great! Now that you’ve been reminded of the eight main parts of speech, it’s time to take a deep dive into conjunctions.
The Four Types of Conjunctions and When to Use Them
Many of the different parts of speech can be broken down into categories. Nouns are usually classified as either common nouns or pronouns. Verbs are divided into a handful of groups, including action verbs, transitive verbs, and linking verbs. Even tiny little prepositions can be categorized as simple, double, or compound, to name a few.
Similarly, there are four types of conjunctions are classified into four different types: coordinating, subordinating, correlative, and conjunctive adverbs. Each type is as important as the next. And gaining a thorough understanding of each type and its proper usage can really help improve your communication skills, both in writing and in speech.
What are coordinating conjunctions?
Coordinating conjunctions connect words, phrases, clauses, or even sentences that are equal to each other. In other words, they coordinate to each other. Chances are you use these words a lot, even if you don’t realize it! There are only seven coordinating conjunctions, and you can use the mnemonic device “FANBOYS” to remember them:
Although you likely use these conjunctions on a regular basis, it’s important to make sure you’re using them correctly. Here are a few examples of proper usage:
- I went to the store for chocolate ice cream but ended up buying cookies and cream instead.
- Do you prefer the team’s blue or gray uniforms?
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of how to use coordinating conjunctions, it’s time to learn about the subordinating type.
What are subordinating conjunctions?
A subordinating conjunction links together a sentence’s independent clauses and dependent—or subordinate—clause. This might sound complex, but it’s actually quite simple! A clause is just a group of words that contains both a subject and a predicate.
There are a lot of subordinating conjunctions, and some are phrases instead of single words. Here are some common ones:
- As long as
- Even though
- Now that
You can use a subordinating conjunction before the dependent clause. If you choose to use it before the independent clause instead, just use punctuation like a comma. Here are some examples for the sentences “My dog has a lot of energy. I take her to the park.”:
- Whenever my dog has a lot of energy, I take her to the park.
- My dog has a lot of energy, so I take her to the park.
As you develop your writing style, you’ll probably find that you prefer one sentence structure over the other. And that’s great! Just keep expanding your linguistic toolbox. A great way to add to your vocabulary is by incorporating some correlative conjunctions into the mix.
What are correlative conjunctions?
In addition to linking words and phrases together, some conjunctions also show how parts of your sentence relate to each other. That’s where the correlative conjunction comes in! These handy tools come in pairs and are separated by other elements in your sentence.
Comparing two different ideas in the same sentence helps your audience understand your message. Whether you’re trying to verbalize an idea or make your written content easier to read, correlative conjunctions can help. Take a look at these examples:
- Not only…but also
- As many…as
- No sooner…than
These tools come in very handy when you want to connect two thoughts. Some examples:
- We’re running late, so either we go to dinner or a movie.
- No sooner did I walk outside than it started raining!
Correlative conjunctions allow you to be creative. They can illustrate similarities or differences between two parts of your sentence, so play around and see what suits your style! Once you’re comfortable with this type of conjunction, you can sprinkle in some conjunctive adverbs and really show off your mastery of the English language.
What are conjunctive adverbs?
The fourth and final type of conjunction is the conjunctive adverb. Remember: adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Similarly, conjunctive adverbs are adverbs that describe or modify full clauses.
Because they often appear in sentences with less commonly used punctuation marks like semicolons, these parts of speech can be a little difficult to grasp. It might help to group them into categories of their proper usage and how they can help you clearly and eloquently express your ideas:
- Add ideas to your sentence:
- In addition
- Show cause and effect:
- Clarify your point:
- For example
- For instance
- Compare two different ideas to each other:
- Concede a point you’ve already made:
- Of course
- Identify contrasting ideas:
- Emphasize a point that’s important to your overall message:
- Show a sequence of ideas or events in order:
- Summarize or reiterate your idea:
- In conclusion
- In summary
- Show timing in relation to other ideas or clauses:
This is far from the full list of conjunctive adverbs available to you. However, before you start researching all your options, try using a few of these in a sentence! Here are some examples of proper usage in a single sentence:
- It is snowing in Chicago; meanwhile, it’s sunny and warm in Orlando.
- Our commute took longer than anticipated; consequently, we were late for dinner.
And here are a couple of sentences using conjunctive adverbs in two different sentences:
- I’ve loved everything that author has published! Indeed, he is my favorite writer.
- I didn’t really like the restaurant’s food. Regardless, it was fun to have dinner with friends.
Don’t worry if you’re still a little unsure of how to use conjunctive adverbs. They are one of the more difficult elements of the English language, and even the most experienced writers can sometimes struggle with them or make mistakes. Fortunately, you just need a little practice to become a conjunctive adverb—and overall English language—master!
Show Off Your Mastery of Grammar by Using All Types of Conjunctions
Even if English is your native language, getting a firm grasp of the different parts of speech can be difficult. And it’s OK to need some help or advice on how to use sentence elements properly! If you’re not sure which conjunction to use or how to tie your content together with correct grammar, we’ve got your back.
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