Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

12.18: Clause Joining and Punctuation

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Clause Joining and Punctuation Words

    The Three Families of Joining Words

    There are three families of joining words: coordinators, subordinators, and transitional adverbs. Coordinators can join phrases (not complete ideas with both a subject and verb) or clauses (complete ideas). Subordinators and transitional adverbs only join clauses. Each type of joining word takes different punctuation, and sometimes the punctuation depends on where the joining word appears in the sentence. This is part of the reason why punctuation can be so confusing!

    Below is a table of common joining words. The logical relationship column represents what logical relationship the coordinator, subordinator, or transitional adverb represents, so when joining two complete ideas, you need to think about how those ideas relate to each other. After the table you will see the punctuation rules for each type.

    Table 12.18 -- The Three Families of Joining Words

    Logical Relationship Coordinators (FANBOYS) Subordinators Transitional Adverbs
    (Can join two clauses or phrases) (Can join two clauses) (Can join two clauses)
    Addition and







    Cause for








    on the other hand




    provided that






    even if

    even though











    on the other hand



    Effect/result so

    in order to (that)

    in that

    so that

    as a result












    Coordinators can join two clauses or two phrases. There are only seven coordinators: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So. You can remember them by this acronym:

    F A N B O Y S

    How to punctuate coordinators:

    Only use a comma if you are using a coordinator to join two clauses. No commas is needed at all if you are joining two phrases. Here are some examples with brackets around the clauses and phrases.

    [I usually am afraid of dogs], but [I love Rex]. (Joining two clauses)

    [Roses are red], and [violets are blue]. (Joining two clauses)

    [The prickly rose] and [the lengthy brambles] scratched my skin. (Joining two phrases)

    The following is a very tricky example:

    {Both [dogs’] and [cats’] instincts have been crippled by humans’ need to make these animals dependent upon us}, so {they rely on us for [their every need] and even for [emotional satisfaction]}. (Joining 2 phrases, 2 clauses, 2 phrases)

    Watch Out! Students tend to overuse “and” and “but," yet they neglect the other coordinators that may more effectively show the relationship between their ideas.

    Exercise 1

    Join the following sentence pairs with a coordinating conjunction that represents the correct logic, and punctuate the new sentence correctly. Please do this on a separate piece of paper.

    1. Darcy went to the animal shelter. She wanted a new dog.

    2. She loved her previous dog. He had passed away.

    3. She had mourned for a while. Now she was ready for a new pet.

    4. She played with a Yorkie. She played with a Terrier mix.

    5. She couldn't decide whether to adopt a big dog. She couldn't deicde whether to adopt a smaller dog.

    6. They were both so sweet. She had to make a choice.

    7. In the end, she decided on the Terrier mix. He seemed like a perfect mix of being snuggly, loving, and protective.


    Subordinators de-emphasize the clause they are attached to and emphasize the other clause. Only use a comma between the clauses when the sentence begins with a subordinator. If the subordinator is in the middle of the sentence, don't use any punctuation with it.

    How to punctuate subordinators:

    Although [I usually am afraid of dogs], [I love Rex].

    In this case, the subordinator “although” is joining two clauses by being in front of them both. It de-emphasizes the fact that the writer is usually afraid of dogs because that is the clause the subordinator begins. A comma is placed between the two clauses because the subordinator is at the beginning of the sentence.

    [I love Rex] although [I usually am afraid of dogs].

    Here, the subordinator “although” can also join two clauses by being between them although it is still at the beginning of the clause it de-emphasizes. No comma separates the two clauses.

    Another example

    Because [I was hungry], [I ate a sandwich].

    [I ate a sandwich] because [I was hungry].

    To repeat: Subordinators can join two clauses by being in front of both or by being in between them. If the subordinator is in front, the commas separates the two clauses. If the subordinator is in the middle, no commas is needed. Subordinators can never appear at the end of a sentence.

    Exercise 2

    Join the following sentence pairs with a subordinating conjunction that represents the correct logic, and punctuate the new sentence correctly. Please do this on a separate piece of paper.

    1. Darcy brought home her new dog, Chumley. She went to the store to get supplies.

    2. The pet store allowed dogs in the store. Darcy brough Chumley with her.

    3. Chumley was a little overwhelmed with the new situation. He became very quiet and put his tail between his legs.

    4. Darcy though he might need to go potty. He might be afraid.

    5. She didn't want to bring Chumley back to the car. She thought doing so might scare him.

    6. Darcy purchased only the supplies they reall needed. They went home to get settled.

    Transitional Adverbs

    Transitional adverbs indicate logical relationships between clauses but -- unlike coordinators and subordinators -- can move around and create various effects in the sentence.

    Transitional adverbs always take some kind of punctuation after them. This is how to punctuate transitional adverbs:

    • [Most dogs scare me]. However, [Rex is an exception].

    (The first clause ends with a period. The second clauses begins with the transitional adverb, which is capitalized and has a comma after it.)

    • [Most dogs scare me]; however, [Rex is an exception].

    (The first clause ends with a semi-colon. The second clause begins with the transitional adverb, which is lower case and has a comma after it.)

    • [Most dogs scare me]; [Rex, however, is an exception].

    (The first clause ends with a semi-colon. The transitional adverb interrupts the second clause and has commas around it to emphasize the contrast.)

    • [Most dogs scare me]; [Rex is an exception, however].

    (The first clause ends with a semi-colon. The transitional adverb appears at the end of the sentence with a comma before it and a period after it. Placing the transitional adverb at the end of the sentence de-emphasizes the contrast.

    In these examples, notice that the transition word could be placed in several different places in the second clause. The ability to move around and still sound right is how you know it is a transition word! You can’t do this with coordinators or subordinators.

    Notice that when a transition word begins the second clause, the punctuation before the transition word is either a semi-colon or a period. If the transition word is in the middle of a clause, commas surround the transition word. If the transition word is at the end of the second clause, a comma comes before it and a period after.

    Exercise 3

    Join the following sentence pairs with a transitional adverb that represents the correct logic, and punctuate the new sentence correctly. Please do this on a separate piece of paper.

    1. Darcy decided to take Chumley to training. She wasn't sure what level of class they should attend.

    2. He knew the commands "sit," "stay," and "heel." He did not know how to walk by other dogs politely.

    3. She had not worked with Chumley. She had taken classes with her previous dog.

    4. She explained this to the SPCA representative, who could not really observe Chumley in action. The representative recommended taking the beginning class.

    5. Chumley and Darcy's first class went well. They decided to continue and ultimately finished the course.

    Exercise 4

    In the following paragraph, punctuate the various types of joining words correctly.

    After finishing the first dog/people training course at the SPCA Darcy decided to sign up Chumley for the next level class, which required more socialization. Darcy knew this would be good experience for Chumley, because he growled at other dogs when she took him on walks. Because of this she started walking across the street whenever she saw another dog approoach. As a result Chumley received less socialization. She was worried about whether the strategies from class would work on the other hand if she didn't bring him to the class his behavior would not get better because he could only learn with other dogs around him. The first session did not go well therefore the instructor asked Darcy and Chumley to work one-on-one with a trainer. Although, Darcy knew this would be more expensive, she figured it was kind of like having a child: sometimes you have to pay for things you'd rather not pay for. In the end, it would be the best for both of them.

    Contrast, Concession, and Emphasis

    Contrast: To emphasize the difference between two things

    Concession: The act of yielding a point or a fact in an argument

    The difference between contrast and concession is a matter of purpose. Think of a line or a range made up of intention (or your purpose for writing). On the left side of that line is explanation. On the other end of the range is "convincing." If you are just trying to explain the difference between two valid thoughts, you are contrasting them (although the second item listed will receive more emphasis). However, if you are showing the difference between the two in order to convince someone that one is better than the other, you show not only that they are different, and perhaps both valid, but that one is better for some reason. In this case, you would join the two ideas by using a concessive joiner, such as those presented below.

    Screenshot (1).png
    Figure: by Erika Dyquisto

    When using coordinators and transitional adverbs, whichever clause is listed second is emphasized. When using subordinators, whichever clause the subordinator is NOT attached to is emphasized. So, when trying to join two clauses to emphasize one over the other, you need to consider whether you are contrasting or conceding and what type of word you are using to join the clauses. That will help determine the placement of the clause you emphasize.

    Exercise 5

    On a separate piece of paper, join the following sentences by adding an appropriate joining word and, if necessary, rewriting so the order emphasizes what you are asked to emphasize.

    1. The word “run” can be a noun or a verb; “run” is a verb when it is showing an action. “Run” is a noun when it refers to something dripping down, like paint.

    (Show contrast and emphasize the second sentence.)

    2. Some students prefer to work in groups. Others prefer to work solo.

    (Show contrast and emphasize the first sentence.)

    3. Some people still argue about whether climate changes are caused by humans. Others are trying to plan for the future assuming that climate change is inevitable.

    (Show concession emphasizing the second sentence.)

    4. Commercial and industrial users with on-site energy systems do not rely on the utility grid and distant power plants. An on-site power system requires an upfront investment of at least $4 million.

    (Show concession emphasizing the first sentence.)

    5. Gene editing technology has enormous potential to cure genetic diseases. Such technologies could change the genetic blueprint that will be passed on to future generations.

    (Show contrast emphasizing the sentence you choose to emphasize – underline the sentence you choose to emphasize.)

    Contributors and Attributions

    • Original Content. Provided by: Libretexts. License: CC BY-SA 4.0: Attribution.

    This page last updated on June 8, 2020.

    This page titled 12.18: Clause Joining and Punctuation is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Athena Kashyap & Erika Dyquisto (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .