Conjunction (grammar)

In grammar, a conjunction (abbreviated CONJ or CNJ) is a part of speech that connects words, phrases, or clauses that are called the conjuncts of the conjunctions. This definition may overlap with that of other parts of speech, so what constitutes a "conjunction" must be defined for each language. In English a given word may have several senses, being either a preposition or a conjunction depending on the syntax of the sentence. For example, "after" is a preposition in "he left after the fight", but it is a conjunction in "he left after they fought". In general, a conjunction is an invariable (non-inflected) grammatical particle and it may or may not stand between the items conjoined.

The definition of conjunction may also be extended to idiomatic phrases that behave as a unit with the same function, e.g. "as well as", "provided that".

A simple literary example of a conjunction is: "the truth of nature, and the power of giving interest" (Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Biographia Literaria).[1]

A conjunction may be placed at the beginning of a sentence:[2] "But some superstition about the practice persists."[3]

Coordinating conjunctions, also called coordinators, are conjunctions that join, or coordinate, two or more items (such as words, main clauses, or sentences) of equal syntactic importance. In English, the mnemonic acronym FANBOYS can be used to remember the coordinators for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.[4] These are not the only coordinating conjunctions; various others are used, including[5]:ch. 9[6]:p. 171 "and nor" (British), "but nor" (British), "or nor"[dubious ] (British), "neither" ("They don't gamble, neither do they smoke"), "no more" ("They don't gamble, no more do they smoke"), and "only" ("I would go, only I don't have time"). Types of coordinating conjunctions include cumulative conjunctions, adversative conjunctions, alternative conjunctions, and illative conjunctions.[7]

Here are some examples of coordinating conjunctions in English and what they do:

Only and, or, nor are actual coordinating logical operators connecting atomic propositions or syntactic multiple units of the same type (subject, objects, predicative, attributive expressions, etc.) within a sentence. The cause and consequence (illative) conjunctions are pseudocoordinators, being expressible as antecedent or consequent to logical implications or grammatically as subordinate conditional clauses.

Correlative conjunctions work in pairs to join words and groups of words of equal weight in a sentence. There are many different pairs of correlative conjunctions:

Subordinating conjunctions, also called subordinators, are conjunctions that join an independent clause and a dependent clause, and also introduce adverb clauses. The most common subordinating conjunctions in the English language include after, although, as, as far as, as if, as long as, as soon as, as though, because, before, even if, even though, every time, if, in order that, since, so, so that, than, that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, wherever, and while.[8]

Complementizers can be considered to be special subordinating conjunctions that introduce complement clauses: e.g. "I wonder whether he'll be late. I hope that he'll be on time". Some subordinating conjunctions, when used to introduce a phrase instead of a full clause, become prepositions with identical meanings.

The subordinating conjunction performs two important functions within a sentence: illustrating the importance of the independent clause and providing a transition between two ideas in the same sentence by indicating a time, place, or cause and therefore affecting the relationship between the clauses.[9]

In many verb-final languages, subordinate clauses must precede the main clause on which they depend. The equivalents to the subordinating conjunctions of non-verb-final languages such as English are either

In other West Germanic languages like German and Dutch, the word order after a subordinating conjunction is different from that in an independent clause, e.g. in Dutch want ("for") is coordinating, but omdat ("because") is subordinating. The clause after the coordinating conjunction has normal word order, but the clause after the subordinating conjunction has verb-final word order. Compare:

Similarly, in German, "denn" (for) is coordinating, but "weil" (because) is subordinating:

It is now generally agreed that a sentence may begin with a coordinating conjunction like and,[11] but,[12] or yet.[13] However, there has been a mistaken belief in some sort of prohibition, or what Follett's Modern American Usage called a "supposed rule without foundation" and a "prejudice [that] lingers from a bygone time" that English sentences should not start with conjunctions.[14]

People associate this mistaken belief with their early school days. One conjecture is that it results from young children's being taught to avoid simple sentences starting with and and are encouraged to use more complex structures with subordinating conjunctions.[11] In the words of Bryan A. Garner, the "widespread belief ... that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but, or so has no historical or grammatical foundation",[15] and good writers have frequently started sentences with conjunctions.[14]

There is also a misleading guideline that a sentence should never begin with because. Because is a subordinating conjunction and introduces a dependent clause. It may start a sentence when the main clause follows the dependent clause.[16]

In Warlpiri, a Pama-Nyungan language spoken in Australia, conjunctions function differently from English or other Germanic languages. In unembedded contexts, Warlpiri uses the coordinator manu, such that P manu Q translates to "P and Q": Cecilia manu Gloriapala yanu tawunu kurra means "Cecilia and Gloria went to town", but in the negative contexts, P manu Q translates to "neither P nor Q", such that kularnangku yinyi rampaku manu loli means "I won't give you cookies or lollipops", as kularnanagku is a form of the Warlpiri negative marker.[20]