In this post, we learn what coordinating conjunctions are, different types of coordinating conjunctions, how to use and when and when not to use commas before them.
Coordinating conjunction definition
A coordinating conjunctions is a type of a conjunction that joins two words, two phrases, or two independent clauses (generally clauses) of equal importance. Coordinating conjunctions are used to form compound sentences, and sometimes complex sentences too.
There are 7 coordinating conjunctions in English:
One way to remember them is remember the acronym: FANBOYS. Every letter in this word refers to a particular coordinating conjunction.
F = for
A = and
N = nor
B = but
O = or
Y = yet
S = so
NOTE: an independent clause is a complete sentence.
Examples of coordinating conjunctions in sentences:
- Jon and Tony are top of their games at the moment. (joining two words)
- I enjoy talking to you and messing with you. (joining two phrases)
- I love her, and I can do anything for you. (joining two sentences)
- I wanted to join you, but my mother didn’t want me to go. (joining two sentences)
- At this moment, you can have tea or coffee. (joining two words)
Note that when these conjunctions are adding two words or phrases, we are not using a comma before them (we shouldn’t either). But when they are adding two independent clauses (sentences), we are using a comma before them. We must do it.
Let’s master all the 7 coordinating conjunctions one by one in detail.
Independent clauses + COMMA + FOR + Independent clause
FOR as a coordinating conjunction is used to give the reason of an action. It is used in the beginning of the second independent clause (sentence) that gives the reason of the action in the first independent clause.
• He is working here, for he loves this company.
• She broke up with Jon last night, for he had been cheating on her.
• I can’t meet you tomorrow, for I have an exam.
• Monu has starting working out, for he wants to be fit again.
• Let’s not talk about what happened last night, for it’s only going to make us angrier.
2. AND (to join two parallel ideas)
AND is the most used conjunction in the English language. It joins two words, two phrases, or two clauses that are related and parallel.
• Akshay Kumar and Pankaj Tripathi are my favorite actors that we have in Bollywood currently.
• I’m not sure if we should go there and talk to him right now.
• My friend Monu has done a lot for me, and I really appreciate him.
• Jon hates you a lot, and he will never talk to you.
• Most people hate waking up early and being alone.
Notice when it is adding two sentences, we are using a comma before it.
When there is a list of items, the conjunction AND is used before the last item in the list.
- I need milk, sugar, and coffee powder.
- The guy is young, talented, and dedicated.
- Before the match started, we went to his house, grabbed some snacks, and came back to the ground.
NOR as a conjunction is used to introduce the second negative clause in a sentence. It means “also not.” Let’s take some examples of NOR.
- I have never talked to that guy, nor do I want to do it.
- We don’t want to buy this car, nor do we have money to do so.
- She doesn’t have a boyfriend, nor does she want to have one.
- I am not your friend, nor do I want to be.
- He didn’t buy anything, nor did he pay the remaining amount.
- I haven’t met her yet, nor have I informed her about the surprise party.
Note that the helping verb is coming before the subject in the second clause even though it’s not an interrogative sentence. This is called inversion. it generally happens in interrogative sentences, but nor clauses also follow the inversion.
NOR is also used in a correlative conjunction. It is a part of the conjunction ” neither… nor.” Let’s take some examples of NEITHER…NOR.
- We are neither your friends nor your enemies.
- She neither called me last night, nor messaged me.
- Neither you nor I am the right fit for this job.
BUT shows a contrast between two ideas of equal importance. Let’s take some examples of BUT in sentences.
- I wanted to help you, but they didn’t let me do it.
- Most people want to have things that highly successful people have, but they are not willing to put in the work and the time that successful people do.
- We would love to join you in this mission, but we really don’t time.
- My father gave his blood and swear to this nation, but he never got the respect that he deserves.
- I love you so much, but I can’t let you do this.
BUT is also used as “Except.” When it is used this way, it works as a preposition, not a conjunction. Let’s take some examples of BUT meaning “except.”
• I can talk to anyone but her.
• She loved everybody in the team but me.
• I can’t die for anyone but my family.
OR as a coordinating conjunction introduces an option or an alternative. It can add two words, two phrases, or two independent clauses (sentences).
• We can have Jon or Rohit in the team.
• Going on a walk late night or talking about the nature might interest her.
• Take this offer or leave the company.
• Do you want to come with us, or do you want to stay here?
• I can make tea or coffee right now.
Just like NOR, OR is also used in a correlative conjunction. It is a part of the conjunction ” either… or.” Let’s take some examples of EITHER…OR.
• Either you or he will be playing in my team.
• We are going to have either Chinese food or Italian food.
• Either you come with me, or you stay here.
YET as a coordinating conjunction shows a contrast between two ideas, generally two independent clauses. Let’s take some examples of yet.
• All of us worked really hard to pass the test, yet we all failed.
• He gave his life for the country, yet people are criticizing him.
• My family knows how good I am at dancing, yet they don’t allow me to dance.
• He has been fighting for years, yet he doesn’t know how to throw a jab properly.
SO is the 7th coordinating conjunction in the list. It shows a cause and effect relation between the first and the second independent clause (sentence). The second sentence that uses ‘so‘ functions as the result or the consequence of the first sentence.
• We were dying out of hunger, so we went outside and ate something.
• I was feeling blue, so I didn’t go to office.
• They were threatening my parents, so I lodged an FIR against them.
• She fell off her scooty, so we took her to a hospital.
SO also works as an adverb in a sentence. When it does, it comes right before an adjective or a verb. Here are some examples of SO as an adverb:
- She is so pretty.
- The exam was so tough.
- You were speaking so fast. I couldn’t understand anything.
WHEN & WHEN NOT to use a comma before coordinating conjunctions?
For many students, it’s confusing whether to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction or not. Coordinating conjunctions go with and without commas in different cases. If a coordinating conjunction adds two words or two phrases, don’t use a comma before it. But when it adds two independent clauses, you must use a comma before it.
• You are young and smart.
• I love playing with kids and teaching English.
• I love my family, and I can do anything for them.
Can we start a sentence with a COORDINATING conjunction?
Though your teachers have told you not to do it, the answer is still YES. You can start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction if that helps you to communication your message effectively.
Most teachers tell you not to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction as it ends up giving you sentence fragments. So, start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction if that’s needed or helpful to strengthen you message. But don’t overdo it. Observe that the previous two sentences start with a coordinating conjunction (SO, BUT).