Without conjunctions, you’d be forced to express every complex idea in a series of short, simplistic sentences: I like cooking. I like eating. I don’t like washing dishes afterward.
How do conjunctions work?
Conjunctions allow you to form complex, elegant sentences and avoid the choppiness of multiple short sentences. Make sure that the phrases joined by conjunctions are parallel (share the same structure).
Coordinating conjunctions allow you to join words, phrases, and clauses of equal grammatical rank in a sentence. The most common coordinating conjunctions are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so; you can remember them by using the mnemonic device FANBOYS.
Notice the use of the comma when a coordinating conjunction is joining two independent clauses.
Subordinating conjunctions join independent and dependent clauses. A subordinating conjunction can signal a cause-and-effect relationship, a contrast, or some other kind of relationship between the clauses. Common subordinating conjunctions are because, since, as, although, though, while, and whereas. Sometimes an adverb, such as until, after, or before can function as a conjunction.
Here, the adverb until functions as a subordinating conjunction to connect two ideas: I can stay out (the independent clause) and the clock strikes twelve (the dependent clause). The independent clause could stand alone as a sentence; the dependent clause depends on the independent clause to make sense.
The subordinating conjunction doesn’t need to go in the middle of the sentence. It has to be part of the dependent clause, but the dependent clause can come before the independent clause.
If the dependent clause comes first, use a comma before the independent clause.
Starting a sentence with a conjunction
Many of us were taught in school that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction, but that rule is a myth. As mentioned above, a subordinating conjunction can begin a sentence if the dependent clause comes before the independent clause. It’s also correct to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. Often, it’s a good way to add emphasis. Beginning too many sentences with conjunctions will cause the device to lose its force, however, so use this technique sparingly.
List of conjunctions
for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so
both/and, either/or, neither/nor, not only/but, whether/or
after, although, as, as if, as long as, as much as, as soon as, as though, because, before, by the time, even if, even though, if, in order that, in case, in the event that, lest, now that, once, only, only if, provided that, since, so, supposing, that, than, though, till, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, wherever, whether or not, while