A conjunction is a word that grammatically connects two words, phrases, or clauses together. The most common examples are words like “and” and “but.”
For example, “I took the subway, and got off at 96th Street.” Or, “I took the subway, but there was a delay.” However, conjunctions can come in many forms with many different functions.
They’re a part of speech that can be broken down into several categories, and we’ll explore each one in depth with examples.
Conjunctions can primarily be broken down into three categories:
While we’ve so far seen some extremely common conjunctions, most conjunctions fall under the category of subordinating conjunctions. These conjunctions are used to join two clauses together that are grammatically unequal.
In other words, the clause without a conjunction (the independent clause) is able to stand alone, while the clause that contains the conjunction (the subordinate clause) cannot. Subordinating conjunctions examples:
- I don’t like cake because it’s too sweet.
This sentence consists of two clauses, “I don’t like cake” and “it’s too sweet,” both connected by the subordinating conjunction “because.”
The clause that stands alone is “I don’t like cake” and can form its own separate sentence. The clause “because it’s too sweet,” however, cannot stand alone and instead subordinates to the first clause.
This is why we call the word “because” a subordinating conjunction. You’ll notice that subordinating conjunctions are some of the most common and useful words in English. Below is a list of the most common ones.
Note that unlike with coordinating conjunctions, subordinate clauses can appear before or after the independent clause.
For example, while you could say, “I don’t like cake because it’s too sweet,” you could also say, “Because cake is too sweet, I don’t like it.”
Used to introduce a cause or a reason
- I didn’t answer your messages because I was out of the country.
- I’m not going to apologize just because you told me to.
- Because my lower back kept hurting, I decided to finally go see a chiropractor.
Can be used to introduce a cause or a reason
- I decided to bake cupcakes, since it was Marjorie’s birthday.
- Since you’re always late, I’m going to start showing up late too.
Can also be used to indicate that something has been true starting from a certain point in time.
- I’ve been broke since my last vacation to Puerto Rico.
- Ever since I was young, I’ve always wanted to become a scientist.
- What have you been up to since school ended?
Can be used to indicate that an event only happens up to a certain point in time.
- I usually sit around in my office until my boss gives me work to do.
- Until you came into my life, I wasn’t quite sure where I would find love.
- When I was in college, I would study until I passed out at 3 or 4 in the morning.
Can be used to indicate that two events happened simultaneously
- When it started to snow, everyone started posting statuses on Facebook.
- When the clock struck three, all the students immediately evacuated the classroom.
- I don’t know how to react when you yell at me like that.
Can be used to indicate that when one event happens at any point, so does another
- Whenever I try to comfort people, I somehow make things worse.
- I hate it whenever I run into coworkers outside of work.
- Whenever you start feeling anxious, just try to breathe.
Can be used to indicate that two things happen simultaneously. It emphasizes the continuousness of an action more than the conjunction “when.”
- I often get distracted while trying to study.
- It’s hard trying to take classes while also working two jobs.
- While my parents were away for the weekend, my brother and I decided to throw a house party.
Can also be used to switch from one idea to another
- While puppies are cute, they can be incredibly annoying to take care of.
- Neutral colors tend to go together easily, while other colors are harder to pair up well.
Can be used as an alternative to “while”
- We can see what logistical problems come up as we move on with the project.
- As the night drew on, the crowd became noisier and noisier.
- My dad entered the driveway right as I called to see where he was.
Can also be used as an alternative to “since” or “because”
- You should be careful going to the gym, as your ankle is still a little weak.
Can also be used to mean something like “in the manner of.” Can be emphasized by the word “just”
- I wrote my essay with five paragraphs just as my professor told me to do in the instructions.
- I took the dog out three times a day just as you told me to.
- Just as you requested, here’s your coffee with soy milk instead of regular milk.
Used to indicate that something has only been true since the occurrence of something else.
- I only started to seriously rethink my life once I graduated college.
- Once I actually started going to museums, I realized that I really liked them.
- I don’t know how Jared is so charismatic. Once he starts a trend, everyone else quickly follows.
Can be used to set up a condition in a hypothetical situation.
- If I lived alone, I’d be blasting my music 24/7.
- I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.
- If something’s bothering you, don’t hesitate to tell me.
The conjunction “if” can be emphasized with the word “even.”
- I wouldn’t tell you his secret even if you begged me.
- Even if I’m having a bad day, I try to be nice to people.
Can be used to mean something like “pretending that something were true”
- He treats me as if I were his sister, not his girlfriend.
- Don’t try to lecture me as if you actually knew what you were talking about.
- You tend to brush most things off as if they’re no big deal.
Can be used as an alternative to “just as.” Can be emphasized by the word “just.”
- I did the dishes like you told me to.
- The dish that was served looked just like it did in the menu.
Can also be used as an informal alternative to “as if”
- Sometimes I feel like Keira ignores me on purpose.
- Don’t treat me like I’m an idiot.
Can be used to introduce an exception to a statement
- The professor said not to email her unless you have a logistical question.
- I personally won’t date you unless I find you attractive.
- The visiting team is going to win unless the tables somehow turn last minute.
Can be used to mean something like “for the possibility that something might happen”
- I sent the message twice in case the first one didn’t go through.
- In case you’re wondering, the performance doesn’t end for another two hours.
- Can you double check the document just in case there aren’t any errors?
A shortened form of “whether or not”
- I’m not sure whether we’ll be able to hit everything on the itinerary.
- Can you tell whether this was handwritten?
- Do you care whether I’m in the room while you’re on the phone?
Can be used to mean “despite the fact that” or “regardless of the fact that”
- Although he was a bit rude, people still found him funny and hung out with him.
- Although the party was dull, I was still happy to see you guys.
- My dad claims that he’s German and Dutch, although he’s also a compulsive liar.
An alternative to “although.” Can be emphasized with the word “even.”
- I finally finished the video, though the editing is a bit choppy.
- Even though I hate rollercoasters, I went on one after my friends forced me.
- I tried escargot for the first time in Paris, though I can’t quite say that I enjoyed it.
AS SOON AS
Can be used to indicate that one event happened at the same time as or directly after another event. It’s similar to the correlative conjunctions “no sooner…than” and “hardly…when.”
- As soon as you’re all packed, we’ll put everything in the car and go.
- Can you let me know as soon as you’re done with the assignment?
- I saw your eyes light up as soon as I said the word “ice cream.”
AS LONG AS
Can be used to indicate that one thing is true only under the condition that another thing is true.
- I’ll be happy as long as you remember to call me when you’re gone.
- As long as it’s below 60 degrees, you won’t catch me wearing short sleeves.
- I’ll always tip a waiter as long as they’re a decent server.
Another alternative is “so long as.”
- You should be able to do whatever you want so long as you’re happy and healthy.
A more formal alternative to “as long as”
- The manager will give you a day off work provided you give a valid reason for it.
- Provided that you worked hard and participated all semester, the professor might cut your final grade some slack.
Used to introduce the earlier event in a pair of events
- We should meet up and grab lunch before this week is over.
- Before we move on any further, do you have any questions?
- I told you to use the bathroom before we left the rest stop.
Used to introduce the later event in a pair of events
- My friend fell into a coma after he got in a car accident.
- After the movie is over, do you want to grab food somewhere?
- We decided to order pizza after you fell asleep.
Can be used to specify the respect to which something is true
- He’s peoplesmart in that he knows how to act around different people.
- I was extremely lucky in that the police decided not to check my belongings.
- The stage setting was excellent in that it really caught the eye yet with a minimalist design.
Can be used to indicate that a situation has changed with the occurrence of an event
- Now that I’m eighteen, I can finally vote in my first election.
- I can think a bit clearer now that I’ve had my coffee.
- We should think about going to the park now that the weather is a bit nicer.
Can be used to express a purpose or intention
- I took some pictures on my vacation so you could see.
- If you see an ambulance behind you, always pull over so that it can get through.
- Can you make the link shareable so I can view it?