Grammar Coordinating Conjunctions |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Coordinating Conjunctions

A coordinating conjunction is a word that connects other words or phrases as well as clauses of equal rank.

The seven coordinating conjunctions are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. (One way to remember them is by using the acronym FANBOYS as a mnemonic device: For And Nor But Or Yet So.)

We use coordinating conjunctions with great frequency in our communications:

I would like lettuce and tomato with my sandwich, but please go easy on the mayo.

Paula doesn’t want to ski this winter, nor does she care to go ice fishing.

Roger has a clumsy yet effective way of fixing broken appliances.

Coordinating Conjunctions in Different Roles

A coordinating conjunction can function with many different parts of speech and sentences such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases, and clauses.

Noun: Should we buy the van or the SUV?

Verb: The party guests ate and drank through the night.

Adjective: That costume is colorful but gaudy.

Adverbs: Slowly yet surely, Jane will finish writing her book.

Prepositional Phrase: The cabin you’re looking for is either beyond the stream or over the ridge.

Clause: The band is exhausted, so they need to postpone several tour dates.

Let’s look at more examples of how coordinating conjunctions connect words, phrases, and clauses. Also continue to note how they unite parts of equal rank.

Words: Rain or shine, we will run and compete. (two nouns: rain, shine; two verbs: run, compete)

Phrases: At night or by day, the guards protect the perimeter and monitor activity. (two prepositional phrases: at night, by day; two verb phrases: protect the perimeter, monitor activity)

Clauses: The checking account is getting close to the minimum balance, so we need to make a deposit soon. (two independent clauses: the checking account is getting close to the minimum balance, we need to make a deposit soon)

Punctuation with Coordinating Conjunctions

Commas separate more than two items in a series joined by a coordinating conjunction, including a comma before the conjunction (often referred to as the serial or Oxford comma).

Examples

The salad includes berries, pine nuts, and blue cheese.

Please call, write, or stop by when you’ve made a decision.

A comma also separates two independent clauses connected by a conjunction.

Examples

The league is revising its policy, and we will soon announce the new rules concerning playing through a hole on the golf course.

The car needs to be moved by ten p.m., or the city will issue a citation against it.

When separating independent clauses, the coordinating conjunctions yet and so can be punctuated with a comma or a semicolon.

Examples

The path is narrow and long, yet on they go.

The path is narrow and long; yet on they go.

When main clauses are short and joined by the conjunction and or or, the comma may be omitted as style and preference determine.

Examples

The path is narrow and long yet on they go.

Tonight the stars will come out and the moon will be full.

Starting a Sentence with a Conjunction

Along the way you may have learned or been told to never begin a sentence with a conjunction. The thinking behind this is well intended, as it means to prevent us from writing choppy or fragmented sentences.

Contrary to unyielding guidance, starting a sentence with a conjunction is acceptable as long as it maintains principles of good writing form. In particular:

make sure the coordinating conjunction introduces a main clause related to the previous sentence: The abandoned bulldozer was a hulking metal mass on the roadside: an immovable junkyard fist on the ground. But the town officials would not have it removed.

be sparing in starting sentences with conjunctions. This technique should be used only to emphasize a statement or thought or otherwise achieve writer style or voice in well-chosen places.

remember that a comma precedes a coordinating conjunction that connects two independent clauses, but a comma does not follow a conjunction that begins a following sentence unless a parenthetical thought is inserted.

Incorrect: The abandoned bulldozer was a hulking metal mass on the roadside: an immovable junkyard fist on the ground. But, the town officials would not have it removed.

Correct: The abandoned bulldozer was a hulking metal mass on the roadside: an immovable junkyard fist on the ground. But, knowing what it stood for, the town officials would not have it removed.

Related Topics

Do You Need Commas Before Conjunctions?
Connecting Sentences with Commas and Semicolons

Pop Quiz

Identify the correctly worded and punctuated sentence from each pair.

1a. Let’s go to the hardware store, buy a hammer, a screwdriver, pliers.
1b. Let’s go to the hardware store and buy a hammer, a screwdriver, and pliers.

2a. The dog looks to be feeling much better now so we don’t need to take it to the vet.
2b. The dog looks to be feeling much better now, so we don’t need to take it to the vet.

3a. Should Jason study mathematics or engineering?
3b. Should Jason study mathematics, or engineering?

4a. The new air conditioner does not use as much energy, nor does it require extra maintenance.
4b. The new air conditioner does not use as much energy. Nor, does it require extra maintenance.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1b. Let’s go to the hardware store and buy a hammer, a screwdriver, and pliers.

2b. The dog looks to be feeling much better now, so we don’t need to take it to the vet.

3a. Should Jason study mathematics or engineering?

4a. The new air conditioner does not use as much energy, nor does it require extra maintenance.

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

Leave a Comment or Question:

Please ensure that your question or comment relates to the topic of the blog post. Unrelated comments may be deleted. If necessary, use the "Search" box on the right side of the page to find a post closely related to your question or comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *