Definition of Conjunction (with Examples)

A conjunction is a word used to connect words, phrases or clauses.

The words and, but, and or are the conjunctions which spring to mind when people think about conjunctions. However, these are just three very common conjunctions from one of the types of conjunction.

The Types of Conjunction

There are three types of conjunction:

Coordinate Conjunctions

Coordinate conjunctions are normally used to join like with like. (In other words they join a noun with another noun, an adjective with another adjective, and an adverb with another adverb, etc.)

The most common ones are and, but and or.

Examples of Coordinate Conjunctions

Here are some examples of coordinate conjunctions (shaded):
  • The comment was blunt but effective.
  • (Here the conjunction joins two adjectives.)
  • Familiarity breeds contempt...and children.
  • (Here the conjunction joins two nouns.)
  • If a man should challenge me to a duel, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place to kill him.
  • (Here the first conjunction joins two adverbs (kindly and forgivingly). The second joins two verbs (take and lead).)
Read more about coordinate conjunctions.

Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are used in pairs to join alternatives or equal elements. The most common pairs are either/or, neither/nor, and not only/but also.

Examples of Correlative Conjunctions

Here are some examples of correlative conjunctions (shaded):
  • I could neither laugh nor cry.
  • She was not only smart but also beautiful.
Read more about correlative conjunctions.

Subordinate Conjunctions

Subordinate conjunctions are used to join subordinate clauses to main clauses. Common examples are although, because, since, unless, until, and while.

Examples of Subordinate Conjunctions

Here are some examples of subordinate conjunctions (shaded):
  • We'll stay here while the weather is fine.
  • I am not attending the meeting until the game has finished.
Read more about subordinate conjunctions.

A Quick Test

  Take another test on conjunctions

There is often confusion over whether to use a comma before a coordinate conjunction (e.g., and, but). When a coordinate conjunction ends a list of three or more things, it all depends on whether you're following the Oxford Comma convention. For example:
  • Coffee, milk, and sugar
  • (This is correct for those following the Oxford Comma convention.)
  • Coffee, milk and sugar
  • (This is correct for those not following the Oxford Comma convention.)
When a coordinate conjunction ends a list of just two items, you should not use a comma (unless it helps your reader.) For example:
  • Coffee and milk
  • (This is correct for everyone.)
  • Coffee, and milk
  • (This is wrong for everyone.)
However, when the conjunction joins two clauses, use a comma if both of the clauses are independent clauses. For example:
  • She can sing, and dance.
  • She can sing, and she can dance.