Conjunctions are words that either join parts of speech or join sentences. There are seven conjunctions in English: and, but, for, so, or, yet, nor. Another way to remember what the conjunctions are is by the expression FAN BOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So). The difficulty with conjunctions is that they are also other parts of speech and therefore have different meanings. First, I will explain to you what these words mean as conjunction and then I will explain how they are used in different parts of speech.
“And” is used to join parts of speech that have an equal value as well as two complete sentences that have an equal value. Note the examples below.
Bob and John went to the market. “And” joined two nouns.
He played football and went home. “And” joined two verbs phrases.
She was a beautiful and intelligent woman. “And” joined adjectives.
My wife cooked the food, and I washed the dishes. “And” joined two sentences.
My son woke up, and my wife made his breakfast. “And” joined two sentences.
“But” is used to show that two parts of speech are opposite as well as two halves of a sentence show an opposite idea. Note the sentences below.
My sons but not my wife watched the movie last night. “But” joined two nouns.
He went to the part but didn’t eat anything. “But” joined two verbs.
He was and old man but still strong. “But” joined two adjectives.
His wife went to the celebration, but he stayed home. “But” joined two sentences.
She lost her keys, but her son found them. “But” joined two sentences.
“For” is used in the second half of a sentence and it has exactly the same meaning as “because.” It only joins sentences; it does not join parts of speech. It always has a comma in front of it. It is not used very often in modern English. Note the examples below.
You are coming to this class, for you want to learn correct grammar.
I have written this grammar handout, for I want you to learn correct grammar.
“So,” like for, does not join parts of speech, must come in the second half of a sentence, and have a comma in front of it. It means a second action is the result of a first action. Note the sentences below.
The man was sick, so he went to see a doctor.
The student didn’t study for the exam, so he failed it.
“Or” shows a choice. It can join parts of speech as well as sentences. Note the sentences below.
The boy didn’t know whether to eat ice cream or cake for dessert. “Or” joined two nouns.
He couldn’t decide whether to stay home or go to the party. “Or” joined two verb phrases.
He is either at home or in school. “Or” joined two prepositional phrases.
He will drive there, or I will go and pick him up. “Or” joined two sentences.
My wife will prepare dinner, or we will go to a restaurant. “Or” joined two sentences.
“Yet” has the same basic meaning as but, but it is stronger. It can join parts of speech or sentences. Note the sentences below.
He would like to go with us, yet can’t. “Yet” joined opposite verb phrases.
He is physically weak yet mentally strong. Yet” joined opposite adjective phrases.
He had his car repaired, yet it still won’t start. “Yet” joined opposite sentences.
He would like to continue working, yet he is too tired. “Yet” joined two opposite sentences.
“Nor” means “not or”; in other words, there is no choice. It is always a “negative” word. Nor always comes in the middle of a negative sentence and always has a comma before it when it is used as a conjunction. It is often used with the word “neither” and a part of speech before it. When it joins sentences, it has what is known as stylistic inversion. Stylistic inversion is when a “statement” looks like a question, but it is not a question. Stylistic inversion is used in English when a negative word (usually an adverb) comes first in a sentence. Note the sentences below.
It is neither hot nor cold. “Nor” joined adjectives.
Neither the cat nor the dog likes the boy. “Nor” joined nouns.
He is not at home nor in school. “Nor” joined prepositional phrases.
The boy didn’t come, nor did his parents. “Nor did his parents” means that his parent
didn’t come either.
The man doesn’t like his neighbor, nor does his wife. “Nor does his wife” means that his
wife doesn’t like his neighbor either.
I can’t do the math problem, nor can my sons. “Nor can my sons” means that my
sons can’t do the math problem
A further explanation of the use of conjunctions is on the next two pages. In addition to using these seven words as conjunctions, I have also shown how these words are used as other parts of speech.
Conjunctions can have two functions in English: (1) They can join parts of speech, and (2) they join two independent clauses (sentences). Using conjunctions is one way to form a compound sentence.
AND: Joining Parts of Speech
I have a book and a pencil. My older and heavier brother lives in Rhode Island. I like to eat and drink too much. That girl is intelligent and beautiful. My wife and I look fat and happy. She dances beautifully and gracefully. He drinks and smokes all the time.
AND: Compound Sentences
I like to eat pizza, and my brother likes to eat pasta. You study English, and I teach it. We work during the day, and we relax at night. My boys are nice kids, and they like to play with each other. I teach English, and my wife teaches cooking classes.
AND with no comma for simple sentences
I swam and played at the beach during my vacation. The man carried the woman's bags to her car and opened the door for her.
BUT: Compound Sentences
I come from America, but my wife comes from Brazil. I understand Portuguese, but I don't speak it. The weather in Seattle is bad, but I like this city. The girl was pretty, but her personality was bad.
SO: Compound Sentences
I needed to fix my basement, so I worked there all weekend long. You want to learn English, so you come to SSCC. I'm hungry, so I guess I'll eat something.
FOR: Compound Sentences
I must buy my friend a present, for it is her birthday this week. My wife was angry at my son, for he had not done his homework. I got paid on the 10th, for it was payday. We bought a new car, for our old one had broken down. He took a second job, for his family needed the money. She was crying, for her dog had been hit by a car. He had a party, for today was his birthday.
I went to the market for some butter. He bought a present for his girlfriend. We went there for two days. He went to the library for a book. He got it for her. He knew a good place to go in the mountains for trout fishing.
YET: Compound Sentences
I ate a sandwich, yet I wasn't really hungry. He was wearing a short sleeve shirt, yet it was freezing outside. He knew the teacher would be angry, yet he didn't care. He saw the policeman, yet he continued to drive fast. She loved him, yet she killed him.
I haven't done my work yet. They aren't married yet. Is she awake yet? Can the baby walk yet? Will the boys be home from school yet? I haven't studied the verbs yet.
NOR: Joining Parts of Speech
Neither I nor John will go. I neither have nor want a new car. It is neither hot nor cold outside. He did it neither quickly nor accurately. Neither he nor I care for that man.
NOR: Compound Sentences
I can't speak Chinese, nor can my brother. I have never been to the North Pole, nor do I want to go there. He has not killed anyone, nor has he seen anyone killed. It isn't necessary to buy a lot of books on grammar, nor is it cheap. He isn't foolish, nor am I.
OR: Joining Parts of Speech
He wants a book or a cassette tape for his birthday. Bob or Bill will go with you. She is either in Europe or in Asia now. You can either come with us or stay at home.
OR: Compound Sentences
He will come, or I will stay with him. It will either be a nice day, or it will rain. You can help me do it, or your brother can take your place. You have to eat, or you will get sick. You had better do your homework, or the teacher will get angry at you.
Exercise 33: Correct the following sentences, please. Put in commas where they belong and take out commas where they don’t belong. Also, look for other grammar mistakes. Be careful because some of the sentences are correct.
He doesn’t speak Chinese nor he doesn’t speak Japanese.
He doesn’t speak Chinese, nor does he speak Japanese.
My son, and my wife argue a lot about everything.
My son and my wife argue about everything.
- I can speak French but I can write it well.
- My sister and my wife like to talk on the phone a couple of times a week.
- I haven’t retired, yet.
- We will go to France next year, or some friends will come to visit us.
- My students do their homework and I correct it.
- I will go home after I finish this student handout for I am getting tired.
- My brother, my sister, my father and I all did what my mother said.
- She is very beautiful but very stupid.
- We lost our camera, nor did we lose our money.
- She felt sick so she went to the hospital.
- He had a lot of money in his pocket yet he stole something from the store.
- His mother sent her son to the store, for some bread.
- She wanted to buy some clothes and some furniture.
- They had a party for today was her birthday.
- She was very tired yet she had to go to work.