Coordinating Conjunctions - Forms and Functions

What is a Coordinating Conjunction?

Coordinating conjunctions join words, phrases and clauses of equal importance. Commas are used before coordinating conjunctions that join independent clauses. Carefully note, however, that commas are used only when there is a new subject - or when the subject on the first clause is restated.

What are the Forms of Coordinating Conjunctions?

FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So) is a helpful acronym for the seven coordinating conjunctions in English. Each coordinating conjunction has a distinct function. Observe how some are preceded by a comma while others are not.

1. And

'And' is easily the most often used coordinating conjunction. It joins similar things or ideas and implies a continuation of thought. 

  • Every day was a happy day, and every night was peaceful. (The first clause has 'day' as its subject, while the second clause has 'night', so a comma was used before 'and'.)
  • Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guide you. (A new subject, 'understanding' is introduced on the second clause so 'and' is preceded by a comma.)
  • Keep your father's command and do not forsake your mother's teaching. (Commas are not used if there's no new subject or if the subject on the first clause is not restated.)

2. But, Yet

'But' and, less commonly, 'yet' are both used to convey contrast or something contrary to expectation. Notice how the comma is properly used.

  • Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
  • He mocks the proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.
  • The wise inherit honor, but fools only get shame.

3. For, So

These are coordinating conjunctions that show a cause-effect relationship. 'So' indicates an outcome (or effect) while 'for' is similar to the meaning of 'because', signifying cause.  

  • My limbs were weary and stiff, for I feared to change my position. ('For' means 'because'.)
  • A conversation ensued which led to high words and almost to blows, for my father was a man of a very violent temper.
  • The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.
  • Sid and Jack were already on the raft, so I jumped on.
  • Candidates are not allowed to take cellphones to the exam room so it is best not to bring one at all.

4. Or

'Or' is the shortest coordinating conjunction indicating a choice or alternative.

  • None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.
  • I have no parents or relations of any sort from whom I could ask advice.
  • Do not love sleep or you will grow poor.

5. Nor 

'Nor' is the coordinating conjunction used to indicate a negative choice or to continue a negative thought. 

  • As we entered he made neither sound nor motion. 
  • No trace of them could be found, nor would the boy open his mouth for all our persuasions and our threats.
  • I have not sat again in the window, nor I have worn the blue dress, nor seen the man in the road.

References: 

  • Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop by Jeff Anderson (Stenhouse Publishers, 2005)
  • English Plain and Simple by Jose A. Carillo (The Manila Times Publishing Corp., 2008)
Designed by Neil Yamit