Stuck on Structure
The Eight Parts of Speech – Part Six

“Conjunction Junction, what’s your function . . .” Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself here. :-)

Basically, a conjunction joins two words, phrases or sentences together. There are some people out there who think that conjunctions are used in a sentence to make it more complicated, even to the point of turning it into a run-on sentence, but this is not true. A conjunction can be very helpful in maintaining the rhythm and coherence of a sentence, while at the same time creating transitions of thought.

There are three types of conjunctions:

A coordinating conjunction balances clauses and phrases of equal weight. It links two independent clauses (which could stand alone as two separate sentences) into one sentence because the writer decides to include them in a single, coordinated thought.

For example:

The committee approved the changes, but it postponed implementation until a later date.

A coordinating conjunction can also link simple words and phrases to combine them to show a relationship:

She enjoys reading and writing.
The Christmas season fills us with holiday spirit and good cheer.

The most common coordination conjunctions are: and, but, for, nor, or, yet, while.

Subordinating conjunctions are used to join clauses of unequal weight. That is, one clause clearly takes precedence and can stand by itself as a complete sentence. They are often used to introduce something or to provide context or counterpoint to the main part of the sentence.

For example:

Unless the neighbours can come to an agreement, the community yard sale will not take place.
I will have to cancel the concert unless more seating can be arranged.

The most common subordinating conjunctions are: after, although, as, as if, before, how, if, since, so, through, unless, while.

Make sure you pay particular attention when using as if and be wary of substitutes. A common error is using the preposition like in its place.

It looks like it will snow today. is incorrect.

Prepositions cannot like a clause, only a phrase or a single word. To correct this sentence, you have two choices:

It looks as if it will snow today.
It looks like snow today.

Correlative conjunctions operate in pairs, and pair words, phrases and clauses to provide balance.

Our vacation was both refreshing and exhausting.
Neither the players nor the coach are happy with the final score.

The most common correlative conjunctions are: both/and, either/or, neither/nor, not only/but also, whether/or.

And now for the part you’ve all been waiting for:

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