Grammar Essentials – How to Use Conjunctions

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Are you wondering how to use conjunctions in your essays and improve your composition? While writing simple sentences for the first draft of your essays makes sense, you should aim to increase your sentence complexity in other drafts. One of the best ways to introduce more complex sentence structure to your writing is to utilize conjunctions. While this is a reasonably basic grammar review, sometimes, little reminders can be helpful!

TLDR; A conjunction is a word used to connect phrases, clauses, or sentences. They are often used to express a relationship between the connected elements, such as cause and effect, contrast, or addition. Several different types of conjunctions are used in different ways in sentences.

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How to Use Conjunctions: Four Types to Know

The following breakdown of four types of conjunctions can help you improve the sentence structure and variety of sentences in your college essays. Conjunctions are a tool that allows you to connect increasingly complex ideas and lure readers in.

Coordinating Conjunctions

The most common type of conjunction is the coordinating conjunction. Coordinating conjunctions connect words, phrases, or clauses of the same kind. The most common coordinating conjunctions are “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” and “so.” Sometimes these may be referred to by the acronym “FANBOYS.”

For example, “I will have a sandwich and a salad for lunch,” “He was tired, but he kept going,” and “You can either go to the store or stay home.”

Coordinating conjunctions are the most basic form of conjunction nearly everyone is familiar with. You probably already have a firm grasp on this form of conjunction. The Naval Postgraduate School Writing Center has a detailed breakdown if you need more information.

Subordinating Conjunctions

Another type of conjunction is the subordinating conjunction. Subordinating conjunctions are used to connect a dependent clause to an independent clause. They indicate the relationship between the clauses, such as time, reason, or contrast. Some common subordinating conjunctions include “because,” “since,” “although,” “while,” “as,” “if,” and “that.”

For example, “I will go to the store because I need to buy groceries,” “I am going to the gym since I want to stay in shape,” and “Although it’s raining, I am going for a walk.”

Need more information? Khan Academy has a helpful explainer video.

Subordinating Conjunctions from Khan Academy

Correlative Conjunction

A third type of conjunction is known as the correlative conjunction. Correlative conjunctions are pairs of conjunctions used to connect words, phrases, or clauses. Some common correlative conjunctions include “either/or,” “neither/nor,” “not only/but also,” “both/and,” and “whether/or.”

For example, “I will have to decide whether to go to the concert or stay home,” “He neither smokes nor drinks,” and “I will be bringing not only my laptop but also my tablet to work.”

As you’ll notice, correlative conjunctions can either introduce a sense of ambiguity or generate emphasis. Masterclass has extensive details on these particular conjunctive forms if you want further information.

Conjunctive Adverbs

Conjunctions are also used in a more complex way in conjunctive adverbs, which are words that indicate the relationship between clauses. They connect clauses and show their relationships, such as time, reason, or contrast. Some common conjunctive adverbs include “however,” “therefore,” “furthermore,” “meanwhile,” and “nevertheless.”

For example, “I am feeling tired; however, I will go for a run,” “I have finished my work; therefore, I can go home,” and “It is cold outside; furthermore, it is also raining.”

The Writing Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a handy guide with information about conjunctive adverbs.

How to Use Conjunctions in Complex Sentences

Finally, conjunctions are used in complex sentence structures such as compound-complex sentences. These sentences have at least two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses. A conjunction connects the independent clauses, and a subordinating conjunction joins the dependent clauses.

For example, “I will go to the store because I need to buy groceries, and I will also pick up some milk while I am there,” “I am going to the gym since I want to stay in shape, but I might also take a yoga class if I have time.”

More complex sentence structure in an essay will often involve having a dominant clause that you can attach to a dependent clause. In an essay, this might best be seen in a pairing of sentences that restate an author’s point after a quote or paraphrase and a sentence about the importance of that point afterward.

How to Use Conjunctions to Improve Your Writing

In conclusion, conjunctions connect words, phrases, clauses, and sentences to express various relationships, such as cause and effect, contrast, or addition. Understanding the different types of conjunctions and how they are used can help you create more complex and nuanced sentences in your writing. Mastering conjunction is an excellent strategy to take your composition game to the next level.

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Here are citations for this webpage based on the most common undergrad essay formats.

MLA: X, Writer. “Grammar Essentials – How to Use Conjunctions – Essay Writing 101.” Essay Writing 101. Essay Writing 101, 16 Jan. 2023,

APA: X, Writer. (2023, January 16). Grammar Essentials – How to Use Conjunctions – Essay Writing 101. Essay Writing 101.

Chicago: Writer X, “Grammar Essentials – How to Use Conjunctions – Essay Writing 101,” Essay Writing 101, January 16, 2023,

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Writer X is an educator in Southern California who wants to share writing strategies for college writers.