Selecting the Right Conjunctions

What are conjunctions? Conjunctions may seem complex, but they’re your secret weapon for making sentences pop. Let’s explore conjunctions and see how they can level up your writing.

Conjunctions are like sentence glue. They’re words that connect other words, phrases, or even complete sentences. You probably use them all the time without realizing it. Some common conjunctions include:

♦ and
♦ but
♦ or
♦ for
♦ so
♦ yet

Why are Conjunctions Important?

Conjunctions may seem small, but they’re super important in writing. Here’s why:

They Connect Ideas

Conjunctions are the bridges that link sentence parts. They connect words, phrases, or clauses to make your writing flow smoothly. Sentences might feel all over the place if there are no conjunctions.

They Eliminate Choppiness

Using conjunctions can prevent short, choppy sentences. They give you the power to merge shorter sentences into longer, more complex ones, making your writing more fun to read.

They Emphasize Ideas

Conjunctions allow you to emphasize certain ideas. You can use them to highlight contrasting information or to emphasize the importance of one point over another.

They Create Variety

Using a variety of conjunctions can make your writing more engaging. Instead of always using “and,” but, or because experimenting with different conjunctions can add depth and interest to your sentences.

They Connect Ideas

They let you link related thoughts together. For example:

♦ you can express contrast with but
♦ show cause and effect with because
♦ provide choices with or

Conjunctions add pizzazz to your writing and make it more flexible.

They Provide Clarity

Using conjunctions makes your writing easier to understand. They clarify the relationship between different parts of a sentence. For instance:

I went to the store and bought some groceries clarifies these actions have a connection.

They Avoid Ambiguity

They make things easier to understand by showing the connection between words and phrases. For example:

I like pizza and pasta tells us you like both foods, while I like pizza or pasta suggests you like one of them, but not necessarily both.

To put it simply, conjunctions are the glue that holds sentences and ideas together in writing. They allow you to express yourself clearly, connect thoughts, and make your writing more lively. Knowing how to use them well is a valuable skill for any writer.

Related Reading: Grammar 101: Back to the Basics of Writing

Types of Conjunctions

Conjunctions come in two types: coordinating and subordinating,

Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are like the equal sign in math, they join equal parts of a sentence. They connect words, phrases, or independent clauses of equal importance.

There are seven common coordinating conjunctions, which are often remembered with the acronym FANBOYS.

For: This conjunction explains causality or reason.
I went to the store for some milk.
And: It joins two similar ideas or elements.
I like coffee, and I like tea.
Nor: Used in negative sentences to express a negative condition.
She neither smiled nor spoke.
But: This shows a contrast between two ideas.
She wanted to go, but he preferred to stay.
Or: It presents a choice between two options.
You can have cake or ice cream.
Yet: Used to introduce an unexpected contrast or a surprising result.
He was tired, yet he kept running.
So: Indicates the result or consequence of an action.
The rain was heavy, so I stayed indoors.

Subordinating Conjunctions

On the other hand, subordinating conjunctions introduce dependent clauses, which are like sentence sidekicks. These clauses rely on independent clauses to form a complete thought.

Here are some common subordinating conjunctions:

Because: It explains the reason or cause for something.
She stayed home because it was raining.
Although: Used to introduce a contrast.
Although it rained, we had a great picnic.
While: It shows that two actions are happening at the same time.
She read a book while waiting for her friend.
If: It introduces a conditional clause, expressing a situation or condition.
If it rains, we’ll stay at home.
Since: It signifies that something has been happening from a specific time in the past.
They have been friends since childhood.
Unless: shows an exception or condition for an action to occur.
You can’t enter unless you have a ticket.
After: Used to describe the sequence of events.
After dinner, we went for a walk.
As: This conjunction can mean “because” or “while.”
She passed the test, as she had studied hard.
Before: It signifies that an event happens earlier than another.
I’ll call you before I leave.
While: It can show contrast or describe something happening at the same time.
While I like coffee, my brother prefers tea.

Using these conjunctions correctly can make your writing more engaging and informative.

What are Compound Conjunctions?

Compound conjunctions (aka correlative conjunctions) come in pairs and connect equally important words or groups of words. These conjunctions show a stronger relationship between elements than a single coordinating conjunction can. Check out these common compound conjunctions.

Either…or: This pair presents choices or alternatives.
You can either have the chocolate cake or the cheesecake.
Neither…nor: Just like “either…or,” we use this combination for negative choices or alternatives.
Neither John nor Jane could attend the meeting.
Both…and: This pair emphasizes that two things are happening or true at once.
She is both intelligent and hardworking.
Not only…but also: We use this combo to really emphasize or show that one thing is true, and also another thing is true.
She is not only a brilliant singer but also a talented dancer.
Whether…or: This pair presents two alternatives or possibilities.
I don’t know whether we should go to the beach or the mountains.

Compound conjunctions make your sentences more complex and add variety to your writing. They’re super useful when you want to show how two things connect or are specifically different.

Important Distinctions

There are some important distinctions that you should know:


Then is an adverb when it shows time, but it’s a conjunction when it shows consequence or something similar.

♦ Then the boat smoothly sailed to the pier. [Time.]
♦ Dogs are imperfect creatures: we must not, then, expect them to be angels. [Consequence].

Yet and Still 

Yet and still are adverbs when they express time or degree, conjunctions when they connect.

♦ We have not started yet. [Time.]
♦ It is still raining. [Time.]
♦ This knife is dull, but that is duller still. [Degree.]
♦ I miss him, yet I am glad he went. [Conjunction.]
♦ I like dogs; still I do not care about owning one. [Conjunction.]

For and Notwithstanding

For and notwithstanding may be prepositions or conjunctions. Though notwithstanding is not commonly use anymore.

Prepositions Conjunctions
I am waiting for you. We must go, for it is time
Jane is coming, notwithstanding the storm. It is a hard storm. She will come, notwithstanding.

For and notwithstanding may be prepositions or conjunctions.


We usually skip the word that when we can easily understand the sentence without it.

♦ Toni said [that] she was starving.
♦ They feared [that] they were betrayed.
♦ I cannot believe [that] you would try to injure me.

As, Since, and While

As and since both mean because. While means though.
When talking about time, as is an adverb, while is a noun or adverb, and since is an adverb or preposition.

♦ As (or since) you will not listen, I won’t say any more. [Conjunction.]
♦ As we crossed the bridge, I looked down at the rushing stream. [Adverb.]
♦ Ten years have passed since my uncle went to sea. [Adverb.]


We use but as a subordinate conjunction in the sense of but, that, or unless.

♦ There is no doubt but that they are murderers. Mary Shelley
♦ Your uncle must not know but [= but that] you are dead.—Shakspere.
♦ There is not a wave of the Seine but is associated in my mind with the first rise of the sandstones and forest pines of Fontainebleau.—John Ruskin.
♦ There was nobody but loved her.

Common Conjunction Mistakes

There are two common conjunction mistakes.

Comma Splices

Comma splices happen when you use a comma to separate two independent clauses. Instead, use a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon.

Run-on Sentences

Run-on sentences are like endless marathons of words. Use conjunctions wisely to break them into shorter, readable sentences.

Examples of Creative Conjunction Use

So we’ve discussed conjunctions, what they are, the types, and important distinctions. Now let’s look at how popular authors have used conjunctions.

The Fault in Our Stars

John Green loves using poignant conjunctions in his YA fiction

♦ Hazel and Augustus shared a laugh, though they knew their time together was limited.

Big Little Lies

Liane Moriarty skillfully uses conjunctions to create suspense and unravel mysteries.

♦ Madeline whispered a secret, and the other mothers leaned in, their faces filled with intrigue and curiosity.

Anything You Do Say

Gillian McAllister employs conjunctions to craft intense psychological dramas.

♦ Joanna stood at the crossroads, torn between confessing and hiding the truth.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini uses conjunctions to convey emotional depth.

♦ Laila’s heart ached, for Mariam had become the sister she never knew she wanted.

A Song of Ice and Fire

George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series is known for intricate character relationships. He often uses conjunctions to depict these complex interactions.

♦ Tyrion studied her with interest, yet Sansa sensed a sadness behind his eyes.

10 Tips for Conjunctions

So, how can you use conjunctions to improve your writing?

Using Coordinating Conjunctions

1. Combine Short Sentences: Coordinating conjunctions like and, but, and or can help you merge short, choppy sentences into more fluid ones.
2. Express Contrast: But is great for showing contrast. Use it when you want to introduce a conflicting idea within the same sentence.
3. Offer Choices: Or is your go-to when presenting options or alternatives? It’s handy for decision-making scenarios.
4. Show Cause and Effect: For and so can show how one thing leads to another. For tells you the reason behind something happening, while so tells you the outcome.
5. Convey Surprise: Yet is ideal for revealing an unexpected twist in your writing by creating suspense and intrigue.

Using Subordinating Conjunctions

6. Contrast Ideas: Although and though introduce contrast, highlighting a contradiction to the main clause.
7. Express Time: Words like while, after, and since help clarify the timing of events in your writing.
8. Indicate Place: Where and wherever provide information about the location of an action or event.
9. Explain Cause: “Because” and “since” are your allies when you want to clarify the reasons behind actions or events.
10. Create Conditions: Use “if” and “unless” to establish conditions for actions or events.

Last Words on Conjunctions

Conjunctions are your friends. They bring clarity, coherence, and a natural flow to your sentences. So, don’t be afraid to use them. Practice, refine, and keep an eye out for common mistakes. Your writing will thank you for it!

If you want to dive deeper into the world of writing and grammar, check out resources like ProWritingAid.


Happy Writing


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