building blocksBasic Coordinating Conjunctions


A coordinating conjunction is a word which joins together two clauses which are both equally important. This page will explain the most common coordinating conjunctions and how to use them.

1. What is a clause?

A clause is a unit which contains a subject and a verb. For example, “It was raining” is a clause; the subject is “it”, and the verb is “was raining”. Every sentence MUST contain at least one clause, but it may contain more than one. For example:

It was raining, so I took my umbrella.

This sentence contains two clauses, “It was raining” and “I took my umbrella”. They are independent clauses because each one would be a good sentence on its own — each one is a “complete thought”.

2. Joining clauses together with coordinating conjunctions

Examine the example sentence one more time:

It was raining, so I took my umbrella.

The two clauses in the sentence are joined together with the word “so”. This is a coordinating conjunction. It is used to join two independent clauses which are equally important. A coordinating conjunction usually comes in the middle of a sentence, and it usually follows a comma (unless both clauses are very short). These are the most important coordinating conjunctions:

Conjunction Function Example
joins two similar ideas together He lives in Victoria, and he studies at UVic.
joins two contrasting ideas John is Canadian, but Sally is English.
joins two alternative ideas I could cook some supper, or we could order a pizza.
shows that the second idea is the result of the first She was sick, so she went to the doctor.

These conjunctions are also used:

nor (joining two negative alternatives)
for (meaning “because”)
yet (meaning “but”)


3. Using coordinating conjunctions

There are three things to remember when using coordinating conjunctions:

  1. Coordinating conjunctions join independent clauses. Each clause must be a “complete thought” which could be a sentence on its own.
  2. With coordinating conjunctions, put the conjunction in the middle. You may see some sentences starting with “but” or “and”, but this is usually wrong, so it's best to avoid it.
  3. With coordinating conjunctions, use a comma unless both clauses are very short.

When you are sure that you understand the lesson, you can continue with the exercises.