Conjunctions are words that are used to connect two words or groups of words. There are two broad classifications of conjunctions: coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.

A coordinating conjunction joins two words, phrases, or clauses that are equal to one another. In other words, one word, phrase, or clause does not depend on the other for meaning. Let’s illustrate this using four of the most common coordinating conjunctions: 

  • and
    • Nicole stayed overnight at a friend’s house, and she even had ice cream. (And links two main clauses, or clauses that can stand on their own to express a complete thought.)
  • but
    • Everyone managed to arrive on time but not me. 
  • for
    • I went to the doctor for my annual check up. 
  • or
    • Do you like ice cream or gelato? 

A subordinating conjunction, on the other hand, is used to connect a main clause with a dependent clause. The relationship between the two clauses is not equal because the dependent clause depends on the main clause in order to make sense. A clause that begins with a subordinating conjunction is called a subordinate clauseSubordinating conjunctions are italicized in these examples:

  • I went to the store because I needed eggs. 
    • Main clause: I went to the store
    • Subordinate clause: because I needed eggs
  • My parents sacrificed their free time so that we could attend soccer camp. 
    • Main clause: My parents sacrificed their free time
    • Subordinate clause: so that we could attend soccer camp
  • Unless you clean your room, you’re not leaving the house. 
    • Main clause: you’re not leaving the house
    • Subordinate clause: Unless you clean your room

There are many subordinating conjunctions in English. Here is a list of just a few: before, after, although, if, because, unless, so that, that, when, and since


Last revised on July 3, 2019.