You know what a conjunction is, you’ve mastered coordinating conjunctions, and you’re pretty sure you understand subordinating conjunctions; there’s just one more hurdle now between you and total conjunction domination: correlative conjunctions. Fear not, Grammar Conquistador. You are about to be victorious.
Correlative conjunctions are sort of like tag-team conjunctions. They come in pairs, and you have to use both of them in different places in a sentence to make them work. They get their name from the fact that they work together (co-) and relate one sentence element to another. Correlative conjunctions include pairs such as “both/and,” “either/or,” “neither/nor,” “not/but” and “not only/but also.” For example:
- either/or - I want either the cheesecake or the chocolate cake.
- both/and - We’ll have both the cheesecake and the chocolate cake.
- whether/or - I didn’t know whether you’d want the cheesecake or the chocolate cake, so I got both.
- neither/nor - Oh, you want neither the cheesecake nor the chocolate cake? No problem.
- not only/but also - I’ll eat them both - not only the cheesecake but also the chocolate cake.
- not/but - I see you’re in the mood not for desserts but appetizers. I’ll help you with those, too.
Here are some more useful pairs of correlative conjunctions:
- as/as - Bowling isn’t as fun as skeet shooting.
- such/that - Such was the nature of their volatile relationship that they never would have made it even if they’d wanted to.
- scarcely/when - I had scarcely walked in the door when I got an urgent call and had to run right back out again.
- as many/as - There are as many curtains as there are windows.
- no sooner/than - I’d no sooner lie to you than strangle a puppy.
- rather/than - She’d rather play the drums than sing.
A great way to practice these pairs is to flip through these correlative conjunctions flashcards until you feel like you’re a pro!
Correlative conjunctions are more similar to coordinating conjunctions than to subordinating conjunctions because the sentence fragments they connect are usually equal. Subordinating conjunctions connect independent clauses and dependent clauses, which have very different functions. Coordinating conjunctions and correlative conjunctions, on the other hand, connect words and phrases that carry equal weight in the sentence.
For example, “both/and” connects either two subjects or two objects:
- Both Jon and Lauren enjoyed the movie. (subjects)
- Jon enjoyed both the movie and the company. (objects)
“As/as” compares nouns using an adjective or an adverb:
- Peter is as tall as Jeff.
- A lion can’t run as fast as a cheetah.
“Not only/but also” can connect nouns or entire clauses:
- I’m not only going to the concert, but also meeting the band backstage!
- Not only will I see your $10, but also raise you $20.
Congratulations! You now know everything there is to know about correlative conjunctions.
If you’ve read through our conjunctions articles and flipped through the flashcards, then you’re ready to knock some conjunction exercises out of the park and stroll through life a bona fide conjunction expert!