What Is a Coordinating Conjunction? Examples, Uses, and Rules

Good writing is neat, concise, comprehensive, and flows nicely.

But it doesn’t just come together with a swing of a magic wand. It’s got to be conceived, arranged, and glued together.

Gluing together random thoughts is a pretty tough job, a task entrusted to conjunctions.

One very important type of these conjunctions is the coordinating conjunction, an adhesive that makes complex writing flow smoothly.

Coordinating conjunctions turn short, choppy sentences, into complex sentences. This quality improves the overall flow of your writing.

But what are they really?

Read on to find out.

what is a coordinating conjunction

What is a coordinating conjunction?

Coordinating conjunctions—also called coordinators—connect or join two or more words, phrases, clauses, or other parts of speech which have the same syntactic rank.

Coordinating conjunctions are used to create complex sentences and while maintaining a readable flow in your writing.

When Coordinating conjunctions are used effectively, they connect ideas together to form one cohesive stream of extensive ideas.

coordinating conjunctions

What are the types of conjunctions?

1. Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions, the coordinators and glue for words, phrases, and clauses of equal grammatical rank.

2. Subordinate Conjunctions

Subordinate conjunctions connect a dependent clause with an independent clause.

The subordinate conjunctions include: although, because, since, unless, when, while.

3. Correlative conjunctions

I like to call them paired conjunctions because they join words, phrases, or clauses in pairs. These include “either…or,” “as…as,” “not only…but also,” and “both…and.”

4. Conjunctive Adverbs

Conjunctive adverbs are adverbs that connect parts of a sentence—just like the other conjunctions.

Conjunctive adverbs show contrast, cause and effect, sequence, and other connected purposes.

They include: after all, besides, finally, however, nevertheless, then, therefore.

Punctuating Conjunctive adverbs follow different rules to the ones applied when using “normal conjunctions.” You may need to use semicolons or commas after them, depending on the scenario.

what are the types of conjunctions
Four types of conjunctions.

Examples and Uses of Coordinating Conjunctions in A Sentence

There are seven coordinating conjunctions: And, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet. All these seven serve different purposes in a sentence.

Uses coordinating conjunctions in a sentence include:

Connecting Words

This is the most obvious use of conjunctions. In line with the rules that I stated in this section, don’t use a comma when a coordinating conjunction connects two words.

I like cars and computers.

Connecting Phrases

Coordinating conjunctions are also used to connect two or more phrases.

1. I will take you or tell you about it later.

2. We will go hiking, do a fun run, have a kayaking marathon, or camp at the mountain top.

Introduce Explanatory Statements

coordinating conjunctions offer explanations as to why the first part of a sentence is as so. They usher in explanations of motives, reasons, and purposes.

I have dedicated my time to purifying my soul, for I have to defeat the demons that freely roam my essence.

Contrast

Coordinating conjunctions are also used to introduce contrasting ideas in the same sentence.

Jane knew who did it, but she kept silent.

Examples:

For: introduces a reason or purpose.

He must have injured himself, for he pulled out of the race.

And:  includes or adds an additional part of a sentence.

John was panting and sweating.

I went to the library, and I couldn’t make it to the party.

Nor: adds a negative to another already-stated negative.

He is neither quiet nor humble.

But: introduces contrast.

He had quite a lot on his docket, but he still came.

Or:  gives a second choice or alternative.

 I could go for a jog outside or just exercise on the treadmill

Yet: Introduces a negative statement/idea, an idea/statement that contradicts an existing situation or condition.

He claims to love his wife, yet his actions seem to suggest otherwise.

So: It ushers in an effect, consequence, or result.

She lost her source of income, so she couldn’t pay her bills.

Common Mnemonics Used to Memorize Coordinating Conjunctions

Mnemonics are useful instruments for improving memory, especially for kids. There are three popular mnemonics for memorizing coordinating conjunctions.

These are FANBOYS, YAFNOBS, and FONYBAS.

FANBOYS

ForAndNorButOrYetSo

FONYBAS

ForOrNorYetButAndSo

YAFNOBS

YetAndForNorOrButSo

Rules for Punctuating Coordinating Conjunctions

1. When using a coordinating conjunction to connect two independent clauses, put a comma before it.

When a coordinating conjunction is used to connect two main clauses, your sentence should have this architecture:

(Independent Clause), (Coordinating Conjunction) + (Independent Clause).

An independent clause (or main clause) conveys a complete idea and can stand alone as a complete sentence.

Example:

A. I really wanted to go to the fair, but my car was at the mechanic.

B. I really wanted to go to the fair, so I went and borrowed my brother’s car and drove there.

2. Don’t use a comma if the coordinating conjunction is connecting two items.

When a coordinating conjunction is used to connect two parts—with at least one dependent clause—you can drop the comma.

Or

If you had two independent clauses but feel like leaving out the subject in the last clause, you can leave out the comma.

Example:

He went to get a coffee and the daily newspaper.

3. It’s optional to put a comma before a coordinating conjunction connecting a list with at least three items.

Depending on the style guide, it’s up to you to put or leave out the comma before a coordinating conjunction that connects a list of items.

4. Don’t use a comma after a coordinating conjunction unless the conjunction comes after an “interrupter.”

For example, if your coordinating conjunction comes after a period just like in the example below.

We’ll go as a team; that means, we’ll have to do everything together. But, as I already said, your personal expenses are entirely yours to deal with.

Examples

A. We have cars, houses, furniture, and yachts.

B. We have cars, houses, furniture and yachts.

Can I Begin a Sentence with A Coordinating Conjunction?

I have heard so many people say that opening a sentence with a coordinating conjunction is wrong.

They’re wrong!

Some teachers told us the same thing, over and over again, like it’s a sin.

But it’s not.

As a matter of fact, they did warn us against using coordinating conjunction to begin a sentence because they didn’t think we were proficient enough to write coherently. For other teachers, it was just pure bias against beginning a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.

There isn’t a single grammar rule that says you can’t begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.

But…

If you’re writing academic assignments, it’s prudent to follow the provided guidelines.

And, when you use a coordinating conjunction as a sentence starter, always make sure that you’ve done the following:

1. Make it a point to put a main clause immediately after the coordinating conjunction.

2. Use coordinating conjunctions to begin sentences sparingly. In this case, “too much is poisonous,” so don’t begin every sentence using coordinating conjunctions. Only use them when you’re sure that they are going to improve the coherence of your ideas.

3. Don’t put a comma after a coordinating conjunction. People confuse Coordinating conjunctions with conjunctive verbs—which are effective as transitional expressions—and place commas after coordinating conjunctions.

Here’s another explanation on why it’s okay to start a sentence with conjunctions.

Coordinating Conjunctions and Conjunctive Adverbs: Similarities and Differences

Coordinating conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs are similar in a way—they both serve the purpose of combining two independent clauses.

That aside, there are many differences between the two. For example, coordinating conjunctions combines clauses of equal rank and—on the other hand—conjunctive adverbs offer transitions from one thought or idea to another completely different stream of ideas.

Here’s an example to make things clearer for you:

We have two clauses: “I arrived early” and “I had ample time to visit friends.

A. [Using a coordinating Conjunction] I arrived early, so I had ample time to visit friends.

B. [Using a conjunctive Adverb] I arrived early; therefore, I had ample time to visit friends.

coordinating conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs

There are obvious differences between the sentence that uses a coordinating conjunction and the one using a conjunctive adverb.

In the first sentence (Sentence A), the independent clauses, “I arrived early” and “I had ample time to visit friends.” Re of equal rank in the sentence—none is influencing the other.

But in B where we used a conjunctive adverb, we had different punctuation marks and the second part/clause had a different connotation. In this sentence, the ample time is a positive consequence of arriving early.

Although coordinating conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs are different, there are special cases that may require the employment of coordinating conjunctions as conjunctive adverbs indicate a transition.

Conclusion

Coordinating Conjunctions—part of the 4-member family of conjunctions—are words that connect words, phrases, and independent clauses. Unlike conjunctive adverbs, coordinating conjunctions give equal emphasis to the clauses they connect.

To memorize all seven coordinating conjunctions (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, & So.) easily and faster, one can use acronyms like FANBOYS, YAFNOBS, and FONYBAS.

Coordinating conjunctions are good condiments for great writing because which is very fluid and with less or not choppy sentences.

About Jessica Majewski

Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories.

She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.