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Coordinating and Subordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating and Subordinating Conjunctions

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson teaches conjunctions and how to use them.

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Welcome to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today? Today we'll be looking at conjunctions, both subordinating and coordinating conjunctions. Then we'll discuss sentence structures in a more general way. The first thing we should make clear is that conjunctions are words that join other words, phrases, or clauses.

All conjunctions come in two types, coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. Writers use conjunctions to fix run-on sentences and to avoid comma splices, which are probably the most common misuse of a comma. Perhaps more importantly though, a writer can use these powerful little words to join simple sentences to each other and to make them more complex.

Keep in mind that there's nothing inherently wrong with simple sentences. It's just that too many of them strung together can make the reading experience boring, choppy, and monotonous. In general, it's best to use a variety of sentence structures and styles, and joining simple sentences with conjunctions is an effective, easy way to complicate sentences and to increase sentence variety. Most importantly, doing this will improve the flow of your writing and give your readers a more positive experience.

The first type of conjunction we'll look at today are the coordinating conjunctions. There are seven of them. For, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. One way to remember these is the acronym FANBOYS. But really, in order to get a sense for how these words work to join sentences, and in doing to make more complicated sentences, let's take a moment to watch them in action.

Take these two very simple sentences. I like pasta. I love Cheese. They get their points across, but in an essay you probably wouldn't want to just leave them like this. Instead, let's add a coordinating conjunction. I like pasta, and I love cheese. Now it's a more complicated sentence. Still not particularly difficult, but because of the conjunction, it can now express more than one idea, more than one clause.

Now, look at these two. The text was hard to read. I got through it somehow. Again, they express two simple but related ideas. So let's join them with a different conjunction. The text was hard to read, but I got through it somehow. Now we're beginning to not just connect the clauses, but to express something of the relationship between the ideas that they carry.

Look at these two. There wasn't enough time to take the bus. I caught a ride with a friend. We could probably already tell what the relationship between the two clauses is, but still add a conjunction to make it clearer. There wasn't enough time to take the bus, so I caught a ride with a friend.

The other form conjunctions can take are subordinating conjunctions. They include after, although, as, because, before, even if, even though, if, since, that, though, unless, until, when, where, wherever, whether, which, and while. These conjunctions, besides being more numerous, also tend to lend more complexity to the sentence than do coordinating conjunctions. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.

Take these sentences. Failure can be hard to deal with. It can be a great teacher. By adding just one word, we can not only connect these two sentences, but allow the message implied by putting them together to come forth. Hence, failure can be hard to deal with, though it can be a great teacher. As you can see, the sentence is saying something that the other two, while separate, couldn't quite say.

How about these? I love my brother. He gets me into trouble sometimes. And if we add a subordinating conjunction, the real meaning becomes clear. I love my brother, even though he gets me into trouble sometimes.

Or how about these, the last two sentences we'll look at today? I never stop working. He never starts. And if we join them with a conjunction, we could get something like this. I never stop working, while he never starts. As you can see, these conjunctions and all the others we didn't have time to look at are powerful tools that writers can use to join sentences and so much more.

As we've seen today and before, sentences come in many shapes and sizes. Compositionists generally break them up into four categories, simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Simple sentences are comprised of just single independent clause, like the sentences we were starting with earlier. Compound sentences, however, are composed of two independent clauses connected by a comma and a coordinating conjunction. And a complex sentence is made up of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses, while compound-complex sentences are composed of two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent classes. Now, with all this variety to choose from, there's no excuse for boring our readers with choppy, monotonous sentences, is there?

So what did we learn today? We learned about the two types of conjunctions, coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. We also covered the different types of sentence structures available to writers who know how to use them. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

  • Conjunctions

    Words that join other words, phrases, or clauses; all conjunctions are either coordinating or subordinating conjunctions.