Coordinating Conjunctions

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What are they?

Coordinating conjunctions connect words, phrases and clauses. They form the bridge that lets your readers know that two things are connected to one another, whether it is actions, complete sentences, items in a series or ideas. The connection is one of agreement, disagreement or reason. There are seven coordinating conjunctions, and they are easily remembered by thinking of the word FANBOYS.

  • F = for
  • A = and
  • N = nor
  • B = but
  • O = or
  • Y = yet
  • S = so

Connecting clauses

Two independent clauses are easily connected with coordinating conjunctions. Remember that a clause must contain both a subject and a verb. When connecting two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction, you must precede the conjunction with a comma. A comma rarely follows the conjunction. Consider the below examples.

Example 1: She is a better player than her teammate, yet her teammate gets more playing time.

Example 2: She walked to the store, but she arrived home sooner than expected.

In both of the above examples, the coordinating conjunction forms the bridge that makes the connection between the two sentences to show that they are connected.

Connecting phrases

Phrases of all types are connected with coordinating conjunctions to demonstrate the relationship between them. Phrases cannot function independently as a sentence, so the use of a comma preceding the conjunction is not necessary. Consider the sentences that follow.

Example 1: Her answer was perplexing to the reporter who asked the question and nonsensical to the observers.

Example 2: She was neither an overachiever nor an underachiever.

In both of the examples above, the coordinating conjunction connects the first phrase to the one that follows it to show that a connection exists. Three or more phrases are also sometimes connected. In this case, a comma is sometimes required to precede the conjunction. Whether this comma, known as the serial or Oxford comma, is required is usually dictated by the style guide you are using or any special instructions that accompanies a writing task.

Connecting words

Words are connected by coordinating conjunctions in several ways. Sometimes they connect items in a list. Sometimes they connect only two words. A comma is never necessary when one connects only two words, but one is sometimes required when connecting three or more words – depending on the rules regarding the serial comma that apply to the piece you are writing.

Example 1: She wanted a treadmill and a stability ball for her home.

Example 2: She went to the store to pick up chicken, rice and celery.

Starting sentences with coordinating conjunctions

There is some debate on whether beginning a sentence with a coordinating conjunction is acceptable 100 percent of the time. While starting a sentence with “yet” can prove valuable to showing a disagreement in reasoning for example, some style guides or writing assignments may prefer that coordinating conjunctions never start a sentence. For professional and academic writing, you should always avoid starting a sentence with “and” or “but.” If you choose do start sentences with coordinating conjunctions, you must make sure of three things: 1) the main clauses follow the conjunctions, 2) you use them sparingly in this manner and 3) you do not use a comma after them unless you need to show emphasis or offset an interrupting word or phrase.