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Connecting Clauses Can Be Fun: A Conjunction Definition

So, you want to learn the definition of “conjunction”—or a joining word—but you don’t want your lesson to put you to sleep. After all, studying new topics should be fun and exciting, shouldn’t it? Well luckily for you, you’re in the right place! In this article, you’re going to learn a conjunction definition. By the end, you’ll understand what joining words are, why they are so useful, and their importance in the English language. Are you ready to begin? Make sure you have a pen and a notepad to take notes, and let’s get right into a simple conjunction definition.

What is a conjunction? It’s one of the eight parts of speech and contains a group of words. You can also refer to them as “joining words” because they join and show the relationship between words, phrases, and clauses. 

There are four categories of joining words, although some English teachers overlook the last group. Here are the three main conjunction groups:

  • Coordinating
  • Correlative
  • Subordinating 

The fourth group falls into a different part of speech, as it contains all adverbs. Yet this group also shows joining between words, phrases, and clauses in the same way. 

Each group has its own rules; thus, you’ll learn a different conjunction definition for each group and what is a conjunctive adverb. Before you begin, click here to learn a little extra about them and begin to define conjunction.

Categories of Joining Words

Now that you have a general idea of how to define conjunction, let’s dive into specific categories and examples. Each category will help you build a more complete idea of what is a conjunction.

Coordinating

What is a conjunction that’s coordinating? Coordinators are the first set of joining words. They connect two main clauses, giving each clause equal importance. They also connect words and phrases. There are seven coordinators to remember: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. Here’s an example of each:

  • He must study a lot, for he fell asleep at his desk.
  • Her new boots are comfortable and stylish.
  • They won’t go to school, nor will they do their homework.
  • We hate the taste of strawberries, but we love the sweetness of bananas.
  • I can’t decide whether I prefer singing or dancing.
  • Jake thinks our cats are cute, yet he’s afraid of them.
  • Susan couldn’t find her homework, so she had to redo it before class.

Knowing the acronym FANBOYS will also help you to remember this main set of joining words:

  • F – For
  • A – And
  • N – Nor
  • B – But
  • O – Or
  • Y – Yet
  • S – So

In addition to learning the definition of conjunction, are you also looking for help with your writing? Here’s a helpful grammar check to try out. It’ll catch writing mistakes and will also scan for plagiarism. There’s also a separate tool that can create citations in MLA format!

Subordinating

What is a conjunction that’s subordinating? Not all sentences have two main clauses. Some have both main and subordinate clauses. There are two reasons to use subordinate words. First, they show how one clause in a sentence transitions to the next. Second, subordinate words express to the audience which clause is more important.

Examples of subordinate words include: after, because, though, that, once, whenever, why, in order, and unless. These sentences will help you understand how you can transition from one clause to the next in a sentence:

  • I’m going to get lunch after I complete my classwork.
  • Sydney always gags a little whenever she smells tuna fish.
  • He thought you left because you said “goodbye” and walked out the door.
  • My mother said in order to have dessert, I have to eat all my peas for dinner.

Correlative

What is a conjunction that’s correlative? Sometimes joining words come in pairs. When you see words like the following, then you know you’re looking at correlative words:

  • eitheror
  • not onlybut also
  • neithernor

These words connect grammatical items, and if you find the first word of a pair (either, not only, neither) in a sentence, you’re likely to also find its pair.

  • She said she’ll take either a mocha or a black coffee.

Neither my shoes nor my sandals match with

Want to take a quick break before reading another conjunction definition? Learn about APA format and more styles of creating citations to improve your writing skills!

What is a conjunctive adverb? These words also connect two clauses to show relationships. However, they’re not as strong as other joining words. Therefore, you need to use a period or semicolon while connecting two clauses with these words:

  • However
  • In addition
  • In fact
  • Nonetheless
  • Therefore
  • On the other hand

Example sentences:

  • My rent is expensive; on the other hand, I love the apartment’s floor to ceiling windows.
  • You’re a great mathematician; in fact, you should do all my math homework for me.

So what is a conjunctive adverb useful for? It enhances your writing and helps create complex sentences. Don’t forget to add this category when you’re answering questions below. 

The Different Faces of Joining Words: Define Conjunction

In general, in the conjunction definition, a conjunction is also categorized as a cohesive device, which are parts of speech that help make your sentences make sense. However, the definition of a conjunction divides conjunctions into three types. There are three different formats that all joining words have: single, compound, and correlative. What’s the difference between each format? It’s quite simple.

To start, let’s define conjunction in the single word format:

Most joining words contain just one word. Each one functions in a different way. Some work to connect two main clauses while others connect a main clause with an independent clause. Here are some examples of single joining words:

After Although And As Because
Before But For If In
Lest Nor Once Or Since
So Unless Until Whenever Yet

 

Next, let’s define conjunction in the compound format:

Here, you have compound words that act as a joining word. This group includes joining words made up of two or more words. There are fewer of these, but these compound words are still common in the English language and belong to the definition of a conjunction. Most compound joining words end with that or as. Here are a few examples:

As if As long as As much as
As though By the time Even if
Even though In case In order that
Only if Provided that So that

 

Finally, let’s define conjunction in the correlative format:

These are words that act like coordinating conjunctions, but they come in pairs. Normally, you’ll find these words surrounding adverbs or adjectives:

  • neither … nor
  • not only … but also
  • either … or
  • whether … or
  • both … and

When considering what is a conjunction, punctuation matters. When a coordinating conjunction joins two words, phrases, or subordinate clauses, no comma goes before the joining word. However, when there are three or more joining words in a phrase or a subordinate clause, it creates a series and requires commas between every single noun listed. hat is a conjunctive adverb’s punctuation?, Place a semicolon before and after the conjunctive adverb. Punctuation can be tricky in grammar. Make sure you know how to be a comma queen before diving into your paper.

Helpful Rules for Learning the Definition of Conjunction

There are many ways that joining words can help you become better at communicating with others. Here are a few rules to keep in mind. Each one will help you better understand the conjunction definition and effectively use joining words. After you learn these rules, if you still need more help, check this out.

  1. You can connect many different things using joining words. Try using them to discuss certain words like nouns, as well as to connect ideas or actions in complex sentences.
  2. The other words that come before or after a joining word must agree. It’s very easy to forget subject-verb agreement when dealing with joining words. Some may even trick you into using the wrong conjugation of certain words. Double check your sentences and make sure everything matches.

Once you understand each conjunction definition, you’re ready to form more complex sentences! Give it a try and see how fun and simple it is.

Review Exercises

By now you should have a solid idea of how to define conjunction, how it is used, and examples of conjunctions. 

  1. Write your own definition of conjunction and list the four subcategories that fall under it.
  2. Explain what is a conjunctive adverb and write two sentences that use them.
  3. Explain what is a conjunction that is subordinate vs a conjunction that is coordinate. 

Published March 6, 2019. Updated May 22, 2020.

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