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06.03.2013 11:19    Comments: 0    Categories: Grammar      Tags: grammar  conjunctions  

Conjunctions are words that join other words or clauses together. Examples are: and, but, yet, or, when, because, since etc.

God made the country and man made the town.
He was poor but he was honest.
She must weep or she will die.
John and Mary got married.

Conjunctions not only join clauses together; they also show how the meanings of the two clauses are related.

I decided to consult a doctor because I was not feeling well. (Cause)
He is slow but he is sure. (Contrast)
Ann wrote the letters and Peter posted them. (Addition)
Either take it or leave it. (Alternative)
He is very wealthy, yet very unhappy. (Contrast)
You can have tea or coffee.

A conjunction and its clause can sometimes stand alone. This happens, for example, in answers.

'When are you going to start?' ‘When I am ready.'
'Why are you crying?' ‘Because John hit me.'

Afterthoughts may also begin with conjunctions.

'Ok, I did it.' - ‘But I didn't mean it.'

Writers and speakers may also separate clauses for emphasis.

Phrase conjunctions

Some conjunctions are made up of two or more words. Examples are: as if, as though, as soon as, so that etc.

He looks as if he were on the brink of a breakdown.
It looks as though it is going to rain.
As soon as I finish this book, I will start another.
We started early so that we might not miss the show.

Relative pronouns as conjunctions

Relative pronouns (who, which and that) join clauses like conjunctions.

I saw a beggar who was deaf and dumb.

In the above sentence ‘who' stands for the beggar - hence it is a pronoun. It also connects the two sentences ‘I saw a beggar' and ‘He was deaf and dumb' - hence it is a conjunction.

A relative pronoun is the subject or object of the verb that comes after it. So we do not need another subject or object.

Trust no man who does not love his country. (NOT Trust no man who he does not ...)
The snake which we could not kill crept into a hole. (NOT The snake which we could not kill it crept ...)

Coordinating Conjunctions

Conjunctions can be divided into two broad classes - coordinating and subordinating.

Coordinating conjunctions join pairs of clauses that are grammatically independent of each other. Examples are: and, but, for, or, yet, so, nor, also, either...or, neither...nor etc.

Birds fly and fish swim.
I was annoyed still I kept quiet.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
There was little hope of success nevertheless they decided to perform the operation.

Words for repeated ideas can often be left out in the second of two coordinate clauses.

She smokes and drinks. (= She smokes and she drinks.)
She is clever but careless. (= She is clever but she is careless.)

Subordinating Conjunctions

A subordinating conjunction joins a clause to another on which it depends for its full meaning. Clauses that follow subordinating conjunctions are called subordinate clauses.

Examples of subordinating conjunctions are: after, because, if, that, though, although, till, before, unless, as, when, where, while etc.

As he was not there I left a message with his mother.
Answer the first question before you proceed further.
I have not seen him since he was a boy.
I must go now as I have some work to do.
I think that he is trustworthy.

A subordinating conjunction together with its following clause acts like a part of the other clause.

I will phone you when I arrive.
I will phone you tomorrow.

The clause ‘when I arrive' is similar to ‘tomorrow' - it acts like an adverb in the clause ‘I will phone you... ‘

He told me that he loved me.
He told me a story.

The clause ‘that he loved me' is similar to ‘a story' - it acts like the object in the clause ‘He told me ...'

Position of subordinate clauses

Adverbial subordinating conjunctions and their clauses can go either at the beginning or end of sentences (depending on what is to be emphasized).

You will pass if you work hard.
If you work hard, you will pass.
As he was not ready, we went without him.
We went without him as he was not ready.
When I am late, my father takes me to school.
My father takes me to school when I am late.
He works hard though he is weak.
Though he is weak, he works hard.

Note that when a subordinate clause begins a sentence it is more often separated by a comma.

Leaving words out

Words for repeated ideas cannot normally be left out in subordinating clauses. However, after if, when, while, until, unless and although, a pronoun subject and the verb be can often be dropped.

We will wait if necessary. (= We will wait if it is necessary.)
When in Rome, do as Romans do. (= When you are in
Rome, do as Romans do.)


About the Author

The author is the editor of perfectyourenglish.com. Learn English with our free online reference guides to English grammar and usage.

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