In grammar, a conjunction (abbreviated CONJ or CNJ) is a part of speech that connects words, phrases, or clauses that are called the conjuncts of the conjunctions. The term discourse marker is mostly used for conjunctions joining sentences. This definition may overlap with that of other parts of speech, so what constitutes a "conjunction" must be defined for each language. In English a given word may have several senses, being either a preposition or a conjunction depending on the syntax of the sentence (for example, "after" being a preposition in "he left after the fight" versus it being a conjunction in "he left after they fought"). In general, a conjunction is an invariable (noninflected) grammatical particle and it may or may not stand between the items conjoined.
The definition may also be extended to idiomatic phrases that behave as a unit with the same function, e.g. "as well as", "provided that".
A simple literary example of a conjunction: "the truth of nature, and the power of giving interest". (Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Biographia Literaria)
Coordinating conjunctions, also called coordinators, are conjunctions that join, or coordinate, two or more items (such as words, main clauses, or sentences) of equal syntactic importance. In English, the mnemonic acronym FANBOYS can be used to remember the coordinators for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. These are not the only coordinating conjunctions; various others are used, including:ch. 9:p. 171 "and nor" (British), "but nor" (British), "or nor" (British), "neither" ("They don't gamble; neither do they smoke"), "no more" ("They don't gamble; no more do they smoke"), and "only" ("I would go, only I don't have time"). Types of coordinating conjunctions include cumulative conjunctions, adversative conjunctions, alternative conjunctions, and illative conjunctions.
Here are some examples of coordinating conjunctions in English and what they do:
- For – presents rationale ("They do not gamble or smoke, for they are ascetics.")
- And – presents non-contrasting item(s) or idea(s) ("They gamble, and they smoke.")
- Nor – presents a non-contrasting negative idea ("They do not gamble, nor do they smoke.")
- But – presents a contrast or exception ("They gamble, but they don't smoke.")
- Or – presents an alternative item or idea ("Every day they gamble, or they smoke.")
- Yet – presents a contrast or exception ("They gamble, yet they don't smoke.")
- So – presents a consequence ("He gambled well last night, so he smoked a cigar to celebrate.")
Correlative conjunctions work in pairs to join words and groups of words of equal weight in a sentence. There are many different pairs of correlative conjunctions:
- not only...but (also)
- just as...so
- as much...as
- no sooner...than
- You either do your work or prepare for a trip to the office. (Either do or prepare)
- He is not only handsome but also brilliant. (Not only A but also B)
- Neither the basketball team nor the football team is doing well.
- Both the cross country team and the swimming team are doing well.
- You must decide whether you stay or you go.
- Just as many Americans love basketball, so many Canadians love ice hockey.
- The more you practice dribbling, the better you will be at it.
- Football is as fast as hockey (is (fast)).
- Football is as much an addiction as it is a sport.
- No sooner did she learn to ski than the snow began to thaw.
- I would rather swim than surf.
Subordinating conjunctions, also called subordinators, are conjunctions that join an independent clause and a dependent clause, and also introduce adverb clauses. The most common subordinating conjunctions in the English language include after, although, as, as far as, as if, as long as, as soon as, as though, because, before, even if, even though, every time, if, in order that, since, so, so that, than, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, wherever, and while.
Complementizers can be considered to be special subordinating conjunctions that introduce complement clauses: e.g. "I wonder whether he'll be late. I hope that he'll be on time". Some subordinating conjunctions (until and while), when used to introduce a phrase instead of a full clause, become prepositions with identical meanings.
The subordinating conjunction performs two important functions within a sentence: illustrating the importance of the independent clause and providing a transition between two ideas in the same sentence by indicating a time, place, or cause and therefore affecting the relationship between the clauses.
In many verb-final languages, subordinate clauses must precede the main clause on which they depend. The equivalents to the subordinating conjunctions of non-verb-final languages such as English are either
- clause-final conjunctions (e.g. in Japanese); or
- suffixes attached to the verb, and not separate words
Such languages often lack conjunctions as a part of speech, because:
- the form of the verb used is formally nominalised and cannot occur in an independent clause
- the clause-final conjunction or suffix attached to the verb is a marker of case and is also used in nouns to indicate certain functions. In this sense, the subordinate clauses of these languages have much in common with postpositional phrases.
In other West Germanic languages like German and Dutch, the word order after a subordinating conjunction is different from that in an independent clause, e.g. in Dutch want ("for") is coordinating, but omdat ("because") is subordinating. The clause after the coordinating conjunction has normal word order, but the clause after the subordinating conjunction has verb-final word order. Compare:
- Hij gaat naar huis, want hij is ziek. ("He goes home, for he is ill.")
- Hij gaat naar huis, omdat hij ziek is. ("He goes home because he is ill.")
Similarly, in German, "denn" (for) is coordinating, but "weil" (because) is subordinating:
- Er geht nach Hause, denn er ist krank. ("He goes home, for he is ill.")
- Er geht nach Hause, weil er krank ist. ("He goes home, because he is ill.")
Starting a sentence
It is now generally agreed that a sentence may begin with a coordinating conjunction like and, but, or yet. But there has been a mistaken belief in some sort of prohibition, or what Follett's Modern American Usage called a "supposed rule without foundation" and a "prejudice [that] lingers from a bygone time" that English sentences should not start with conjunctions.
People associate this mistaken belief with their early school days. One conjecture is that it results from young children being taught to avoid simple sentences starting with and and encouraged to use more complex structures with subordinating conjunctions. In the words of Bryan A. Garner, the "widespread belief ... that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but, or so" has "no historical or grammatical foundation", and good writers have frequently started sentences with conjunctions.
There is also a "myth" that a sentence should never begin with because. Because is a subordinating conjunction and introduces a dependent clause. It may start a sentence when the main clause follows the dependent clause.
- "But she must give security that she will not marry without royal consent, if she holds her lands of the Crown, or without the consent of whatever other lord she may hold them of."—Magna Carta (1215), translated into modern English
- "But we, or our chief justice if we are not in England, are first to be informed."— Magna Carta (1215), translated into modern English
- "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
- "But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively."—United States Constitution (1787)
- "And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof."—United States Constitution (1787)
- "And this power has been exercised when the last act, required from the person possessing the power, has been performed."—United States Supreme Court Judgment (1803)
- "But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground." Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (1863)
- "Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address (1865)
- "So the inquiries can coexist, though there is much overlap between them."
- "And it appears that it was this latter factor which underlay the dismissal of the appeal by the majority. But it seems to me that the question of whether it is fair, just and reasonable is better considered against the background of whether a sufficiently proximate relationship exists."
- "But the earlier decisions in Pratap Narain Singh Deo and Valsala K. were not brought to the notice of the Court in the two later decisions in Mubasir Ahmed and Mohd. Nasir."
- "And now we have Facebook and Twitter and Wordpress and Tumblr and all those other platforms that take our daily doings and transform them into media."
- "So any modern editor who is not paranoid is a fool".
- "And strikes are protected globally, existing in many of the countries with labour laws outside the Wagner Act model."
In other languages
In Warlpiri, a Pama-Nyungan language spoken in Australia, conjunctions function differently than in English or other Germanic languages. In unembedded contexts, Warlpiri uses the coordinator manu, such that P manu Q translates to "P and Q": Cecilia manu Gloriapala yanu tawunu kurra means "Cecilia and Gloria went to town". However, in the negative contexts, P manu Q translates to "neither P nor Q", such that kularnangku yinyi rampaku manu loli means "I won't give you cookies or lollipops", as kularnanagku is a form of the Warlpiri negative marker.
- Cohesion (linguistics)
- Conjunctive adverb
- Conjunctive mood, sometimes used with conjunctions
- Genitive connector
- Logical conjunction
- On a white bus
- Serial comma – the comma used immediately before a coordinating conjunction preceding the final item in a list of three or more items
- So (sentence closer)
- So (sentence opener)
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