Coordinating Conjunctions: Essential Joining Words

Updated November 19, 2020
coordinating conjunction examples with FANBOYS acronym
    coordinating conjunction examples with FANBOYS acronym
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Coordinating conjunctions are the most popular category of conjunctions. Simply put, they bring equally important ideas together. They can join words, phrases and clauses of equal importance and grammatical rank. Keep reading to see several coordinating conjunction examples that will make their function clear.

The Coordinating Conjunctions

The English language has seven coordinating conjunctions. They're easy to remember if you can just remember the acronym FANBOYS: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So. Coordinating conjunctions are important when creating compound sentences or when contrasting different ideas. Here are some examples of each coordinating conjunction in action.

For: Explains a Reason

The first coordinating conjunction in FANBOYS is “For.” It explains a reason or purpose (just like "because"), typically with two independent clauses. For example:

  • I go to the park every Sunday, for I long to see his face.
  • Juanita eats healthy, for she wants to stay in shape.
  • My husband sent me flowers, for he loves me.
  • Let’s not fight about the past, for today is a new day.

“For” can be confusing because it can also be a preposition (such as in “I bought this gift for you”). But when it’s used to explain why something is happening, it’s a coordinating conjunction.


And: Joins Two Ideas

The second coordinating conjunction in FANBOYS, “And,” adds one thing to another. It can be used to join two nouns, two verbs, two adjectives, two phrases, or two independent clauses. Examples of “and” in a sentence include:

  • I like to read, and I write in my journal every night.
  • You should invite Mario and Estefan to the party.
  • Melody looks beautiful and grown-up in her prom dress.
  • The puppies run and jump when their owner comes home.

“And” is one of the most common coordinating conjunctions in English. Notice how it connects two of the same part of speech or two clauses with equal importance.

Nor: Presents a Second Negative Idea

Nor” is the third coordinating conjunction in FANBOYS. It’s used to present a second negative idea to join a negative idea in the first clause. “Nor” is less common than other coordinating conjunctions, but still joins two (negative) ideas together.

  • My sister doesn’t like to study, nor does she take notes in class.
  • Our family hasn’t been to New York, nor have we been to Florida.
  • Braxton didn’t do his chores, nor did he finish his homework.
  • King Henry was not the ruler of France, nor did he reign over Spain.

When using “nor,” you reverse the verb order in the second clause (such as in “nor does she take notes” instead of “nor she does take notes.”). “Nor” is often used after “neither” (such as “I neither hate nor love to watch TV”) as a correlative conjunction, which is a pair of conjunctions that join ideas.


But: Introduces an Opposing Idea

The fourth FANBOYS coordinating conjunction is “But.” It shows contrast between two words, phrases or ideas of equal importance. Examples of “but” in a sentence are:

  • Television is a wonderful escape, but it interferes with my writing.
  • We would love to attend the birthday party, but we have plans that day.
  • I was going to earn an A in Math, but I failed the final test.
  • My grandfather earned an award, but he never got to accept it.

When “but” is used for the same meaning as “except” (as in “Everyone but me was invited”), it’s a preposition, not a conjunction. “But” is only a conjunction when the clauses on either side express opposite ideas.

Or: Shows an Alternative

Or,” the fifth coordinating conjunction in FANBOYS, presents an alternative or a choice. Like “and,” it can be used between two of the same part of speech as well as two phrases or clauses. For example:

  • Would you rather read a book or watch a good TV show?
  • I can’t decide if I should study economics or political science.
  • We could have dinner before the movie, or we could grab a bite afterward.
  • Do you prefer to go to bed early or to stay up late?

Like “nor,” you can use “or” as a correlative conjunction. It joins with “either” (as in “Either you get in the car now or we’ll be late”) as a conjunction pair to connect opposing ideas. Unlike “neither/nor,” “either/or” connects positive ideas.


Yet: Adds a Contrasting Idea

Yet” is the sixth coordinating conjunction in FANBOYS. It introduces a contrasting idea that follows the preceding idea logically. Some example sentences include:

  • I always take a book to the beach, yet I never seem to turn a single page.
  • I really want a kitten, yet my mom says we have too many cats.
  • The students like their teacher, yet they wish he graded more fairly.
  • Pearl would like to make pasta, yet she’s also in the mood for a sandwich.

“But” and “yet” seem interchangeable, and they almost are. “But” brings a tone of finality into a sentence (“I’d love to ice skate, but I don’t know how”) while “yet” implies that an action may be able to change in the future (“I’d love to ice skate, yet I don’t know how.”). Grammatically, you can use one for the other, but the shift in tone makes it worth your time to choose the right word.


So: Indicates a Result or Effect

The final FANBOYS coordinating conjunction is “So.” It indicates an effect, result or consequence from an action in the earlier clause. For example:

  • I like to read, so I didn’t mind the long reading assignment.
  • The grocery store was closed, so we went to the farmer’s market instead.
  • Our car won’t start, so we called a mechanic.
  • A baby bird fell out of its nest, so we took care of it.

“So” can also be used as an adverb, as in “I am so tired.” But it’s not linking two words or ideas together in this case; it’s modifying the word “tired.” Make sure you know how the word is functioning in a sentence before determining its part of speech.

Using Commas With Coordinating Conjunctions

You'll notice that some of the coordinating conjunction examples are preceded by a comma while others are not. If a coordinating conjunction is joining together two independent clauses, it needs to have a comma with it. Independent clauses have the ability to stand alone as complete sentences.

For example: “Television is a wonderful escape, but it interferes with my writing.” Because these are two independent clauses, they must be joined together by a comma and a coordinating conjunction. Leaving out the comma may lead to run-on sentences.


Can You Begin a Sentence With a Coordinating Conjunction?

Another misconception is that it's incorrect to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. While this is a good rule of thumb, it's not a hard and fast rule of grammar as long as your sentence still connects to the sentence before it. For example:

  • The grocery store was closed, so we went to the farmer’s market instead.
  • The grocery store was closed. So, we went to the farmer’s market instead.
  • The students like their teacher, yet they wish he graded more fairly.
  • The students like their teacher. Yet they wish he graded more fairly.
  • We could have dinner before the movie, or we could grab a bite afterward.
  • We could have dinner before the movie. Or, we could grab a bite afterward.

You might want to limit how often you begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. However, it's not incorrect to do so, especially if it'll break up a particularly long sentence into more understandable chunks. It’s an effective way to vary your writing style if needed.


Coordinating Conjunctions vs. Conjunctive Adverbs

You may be thinking “Wait! I know there are more coordinating conjunctions than those seven!” If you’re wondering why words like “however,” “therefore” and “also” aren’t considered coordinating conjunctions, that’s because they’re conjunctive adverbs. Conjunctive adverbs join two clauses with a semicolon or in a new sentence, and modify the first clause with the second clause.

Quality and Complexity

Coordinating conjunctions are the simplest of all the conjunctions to recognize and master. Knowing how they work will improve the quality and complexity of your writing. If you’re ready for different types of conjunctions, there are lots of ways to start. Practice putting each one in its correct place with these conjunction exercises that are sure to reinforce your new grammar knowledge.