English Grammar

Coordinating Conjunctions

by Eugene R. Moutoux

1. Coordinating conjunctions connect words, phrases, and clauses of equal importance and almost always of the same kind, i.e., nouns with nouns, verbs with verbs, etc. The principal coordinating conjunctions are and, but, or, nor; the correlatives are both . . . and, either . . . or, and neither . . . nor. In the sentence Hansel and Gretel marked the trail through the forest, the coordinating conjunction and connects the subjects Hansel and Gretel. The same coordinating conjunction joins two verbs in the sentence The children laughed and played. (compound verb). The stepmotherís command, "Hansel and Gretel, wait here until your father and I return," begins with a compound vocative. 


2. Here are some additional examples of compound nouns, i.e., nouns connected by coordinating conjunctions:

- In which song is America called the land of the free and the home of the brave? (compound predicate nominative)

- They have a mountain of money but a thimbleful of time. (compound direct object)

- Would you call a tadpole a fish or a reptile? (compound objective complement)

- She likes to ride the roller coaster with either her parents or her grandparents. (compound object of preposition)

- The meet director gave both the winner and the runner-up a large trophy. (compound indirect object)2. And here are some other words joined by coordinating conjunctions:

- The project manager was excited but too exhausted to think straight. (compound predicate adjective)

- The students were urged to express their ideas clearly and concisely. (compound adverb)

- Ours is a government by and for the people. (compound preposition)


3. And compound phrases:

- He could live neither with her nor without her. (compound prepositional phrase)

- She yearned to go to Colorado and ski all winter. (compound infinitive phrase)


4. Finally, compound clauses:

- She went shopping but he stayed home. (compound sentence)

- If you take Brenda, and Josh rides with Amelie, Iíll see to it that Johanna and Natalie find a way. (compound adverb clause)

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5. If you often use the coordinating conjunctions and and but to join two clauses, try something different: perhaps a semicolon to replace and (you may want to use a transitional adverb like moreover to introduce the second clause) or a semicolon followed by nevertheless or however to replace but. Another alternative to and is a subordinating conjunction like while. To replace but, you may want to use a clause introduced by although. Here are examples:

- He could scarcely afford the weekly flights, and the travel disrupted his sleep. He could scarcely afford the weekly flights; moreover, the travel disrupted his sleep.

- She waved every day as she passed the old couple, and sometimes they waved back. She waved every day as she passed the old couple; sometimes they waved back.

- Kelly finished a conversation in the hotel restaurant, and her sister relaxed in the lobby. While Kelly finished a conversation in the hotel restaurant, her sister relaxed in the lobby.

- The children presented valid tickets, but admission was denied them. The children presented valid tickets; nevertheless, admission was denied them. Although the children presented valid tickets, admission was denied them.

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6. Be sure to position the correlative conjunctions not only . . . but also logically with respect to each other. Hereís a sentence in which that doesnít happen: 

- Anna plays not only on the tennis team, but she also has time for her school work. 

The reader expects to hear what other team or teams Anna plays on. The sentence could be corrected as follows: 

- Anna not only plays on the tennis team but also has time for school work.

I hope you donít care for this sentence: 

- Joe not only plays bridge, but his wife plays as well. 

The reader expects to hear what else Joe does. Corrections: 

- Not only Joe plays bridge, but his wife plays as well, or Not only does Joe play bridge, but his wife plays as well. 

The second option is somewhat problematic because it must be properly intoned; specifically, Joe, not bridge, must be accented.

- from the teacher's enlarged edition of my book Diagramming Step by Step: One Hundred and Fifty-one Steps to Diagramming Excellence

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