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Types of Conjunctions: Explained

What are the Different Types of Conjunctions?

If you grew up during the 1970s, you likely learned about the different types of conjunctions via the song "Conjunction Junction." The tune was one of the most popular (and catchy) from an animated TV show called "Schoolhouse Rock." The main "Conjunction Junction" chorus went like this;

"Conjunction junction, what's your function?

"Hooking up words and phrases and clauses!"

As a content writer, the primary phrase to this hit song explains (in kid-like terms) how conjunctions work: linking together simplistic sentences and allowing you to write longer, more eloquent, and more understandable sentences instead. Here is an example that shows conjunctions in use:

• I enjoy writing content.

• I enjoy providing useful information.

• I despise poorly written content.

The former three sentences are clear but about as basic and blasé as they come. Using the conjunctions "and" and "while," however, you can create a longer, single sentence that sounds better educated and conveys a more powerful, concise message:

• I enjoy writing content and providing useful information, while I despise poorly written content.

We think you'll agree; that's a more eloquent, highly explanatory sentence conveying both the writer's love of writing and contempt for content filled with grammatical errors. What's even more impressive is that it all comes together using only two conjunction words, "and" and "while," illustrating just how potent conjunctions can be when writing.

What is an Easy Way to Remember the Conjunction Definition?

Like the song "Conjunction Junction," the easiest way to remember the conjunction definition is that it hooks up (connects) words, phrases, and clauses. Conjunctions empower you as a content writer to transform simple sentences into fluent, readable, and enjoyable sentences. In easier-to-remember terms, conjunctions combine simple, bland sentences into complex, interesting ones.

There are 3 Types of Conjunctions You Need to Know and Use

Conjunctions come in three different flavors, if you will, including coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions, and subordinating conjunctions. Now, truth be told, there's also a fourth type of conjunction, a conjunctive adverb. However, these words are simply adverbs used to connect smaller phrases, clauses, and words. As such, we're going to leave them out of today's conversation. Below is a closer look at all three conjunction types, their specific terms, and how to correctly use them in your content writing.

Coordinating conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions connect and coordinate the same parts of phrases and clauses, including two or more nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and prepositions.

Coordinating conjunctions include; and, but, or, yet, for, nor, and so.

Below are several examples of the use of coordinating conjunctions to give you an idea of how and why they work:

• A cold and strong wind blew across the frozen tundra of Antarctica. (The conjunction "and" connects two adjectives; cold and strong.)

• The instructions said to type or print the information on the tax information form. (The conjunction "or" connects two verbs; type and print.)

• The lawyer's arguments were easy to mock but hard to deny. (In this example, the conjunction "but" connects two equally important phrases; "easy to mock" and "hard to deny.")

Here is an example of the wrong use for coordinating conjunctions:

• The woman was depressed and a dancer in Las Vegas.

In this example, the adjective "depressed" and the noun "dancer" are incompatible, making the sentence feel clumsy and disjointed.)

Correlative conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are interesting because they use two conjunction words together simultaneously rather than one. Another way to think about correlated conjunctions is that they come in pairs and connect words, phrases, or clauses that are equally important in any particular sentence. Because of this, they are used to show a relationship between matching or contrasting ideas, depending on the subject.

The correlative conjunctions include the following:

• Both...and

• Just

• Not only...but also

• Either...or

• Neither...nor

• Whether...or

• Rather...than

• Scarcely...when

• If...then

Below are several examples of the use of correlative conjunctions to show you how they work and when you should use them in your content writing:

Both Tim and Frank wanted to be football captains, although only one would get the opportunity. (In this example, two proper nouns, Tim and Frank, are joined by the correlative conjunction.) (Notice the use of the subordinating conjunction "although" in the sentence, also.)

• My mom not only visited my school to dress me for Halloween but also made my costume. (This example of correlative conjunction joins two action phrases; "visited my school" and "made my costume.")

Neither the New York Giants nor the Philadelphia Eagles wanted to go home a loser at the end of the football game. (In this example, two proper nouns, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, are joined by the correlative conjunction.)

• She not only danced in the play but also wrote it. (This correlative conjunction example connects two verbs of equal value in the sentence.)

Here is an example of the wrong use for correlative conjunctions:

• He was not only a jealous husband but also liked to play the banjo. (Being a jealous husband has nothing to do with playing the banjo. For that reason, they are not of equal importance, and the correlative conjunction doesn't work, making the sentence sound immature and illogical.)

Subordinating conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions are interesting because they signal the relationship between an adverb clause and another, typically independent, clause in a sentence. An adverb clause answers the question of how, when, or why something has been done. An independent clause is a sentence (or group of words) that can stand independently without needing further explanation. Subordinating conjunctions connect these two types of clauses while putting context to their meaning. Also, subordinating clauses can be one, two, and even three words. (Plus, they happen to be the longest group of conjunction words of the three types.) They include:

• After

• Although

• As

• As if

• Because

• Before

• If

• In order that (Three words!)

• Once

• Since

• So that

• Than

• Though

• Unless

• Until

• When

• Where

• While

Below are several examples of the use of subordinating conjunctions. Once you see how they work, you'll be able to correctly use them in your various content pieces:

• Barbara jumped when her car alarm suddenly went off. (In this example, the subordinating conjunction "when" shows that there is a time-based relationship and tells us that the 2nd event (the car alarm going off) caused the first event (Barbara jumping).

Once it is finished being built, the Johnsons will move into their new home. (Another time-based subordinating conjunction example, this one shows the relationship between something being finished (the home) and an action that someone will then take (the Johnson's moving into the said home).

• My mom started teaching French after she received her teaching degree. (In this example, the 2nd action (mom received her teaching degree) is connected to the 1st action (she started teaching) and connected by the subordinating conjunction "after.")

Until you turn 21, you can't drink alcohol in the United States. (Are you starting to see the pattern here?)

Here is an example of the wrong use for subordinating conjunctions:

Because it was raining, the rain was coming down hard.

In this example, the "rain coming down hard" has nothing to do with why it was raining, and thus the subordinating conjunction "because" is not necessary and incorrect.

Remember to Include Parallel Structure when using Conjunctions

When using conjunctions, it's essential to remember to use parallel structure so that they are grammatically correct (and sound more eloquent). Parallel structure is a grammatical rule that tells us to use the same form or structure in coordinate parts of a sentence joined by a conjunction. While the rule seems a bit convoluted, it's easy to understand once you glimpse it in an example, as we'll see below using a similar example from earlier.

• Greg enjoys writing content.

• Greg enjoys providing useful information.

• Greg despise poorly written content.

The correct usage of parallel structure using this example would thus be:

• Greg enjoys writing content and providing useful information while despising poorly written content.

Notice how all three verbs use the suffix "ing," which is correct and the proper usage of parallel structure. Below is the same sentence without using this structure. Notice how it seems a

• Greg enjoys writing content and provides useful information, while he despised poorly written content.

As we can see, the previous sentence is all over the place, doesn't flow well, and, of course, is grammatically incorrect (as my spell-checking software is telling me right now!). By the way, parallel structure is used with all three types of conjunctions, including coordinating, correlative, and subordinating conjunctions.

Knowing Which Type of Conjunction to Use will make your Content Come to Life

Knowing how, when, and where to use conjunctions and the proper types of conjunctions to use is essential if you want to create scintillating content that your readers will instantly understand, even if the sentences are lengthy and involved. It takes practice, of course, but so does mastering every grammatical idea, tool, or rule (and all the different exceptions to their particular rules).

Like the classic song taught children of the 70s, whether correlative, conjunctive, or coordinating, conjunctions hook up words and phrases and clauses. Use them correctly, and those hookups will help your content stand out among the millions of pages of content online today.


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