Review: Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions often cause writers problems. Today, a review of paired conjunctions.

Correlative conjunction is the grammarian’s fancy term for a pair of conjunctions that join two matching sentence parts, such as not only…but also and both…and. The trick with these conjunctions is the sentence parts they join must be structured the same way. For example:

Not only was I sick, but I was also tired.
He not only will call but also will send flowers.
Both she and I have completed the coursework.
The book is both long and complicated.

In the first example, both parts of the sentence have a subject-verb structure (technically, these are two complete sentences). In the second example, the conjunctions are joining two verb phrases: will call and will send flowers. If you’re going to use not only, be sure to follow it with but also (or but…as well or but…too).

In the third example, both…and are joining she and I, subject pronouns for the verb have completed. In the last example, the conjunctions are joining two adjectives describing book: long and complicated. In these cases, you could choose to drop both:

She and I have completed the coursework.
The book is long and complicated.

But if you use both to join two parts, you’ll need to follow it with and:

Wrong: The book is both long or complicated.
Right: The book is both long and complicated.

Some other correlative conjunctions to watch for:

  • Although…nevertheless
  • Although…yet
  • As…as
  • Either…or
  • If…then (though then can often be dropped to streamline the sentence)
  • Just as…so also
  • Neither…nor
  • Since…therefore
  • When…then (then can sometimes be dropped to streamline)
  • Whether…or

Think you’ve got it? Try this quiz. You’ll get your score after completing the quiz and you can continue taking it until you get all the questions right. E-mail me or post a comment below if you have questions!

About Erin Brenner

With a BA and an MA in English, Erin has been an editing professional for 15 years, working on a variety of media, especially online. Her niche is business/marketing and online. In addition, she has experience teaching editing to non-editors and coaching writers. In 2008, Erin was bitten by the social media bug...hard. Follow her on Twitter, @ebrenner, and get a daily vocabulary word, a link to the article of the day, and much more. You can also find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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