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What are Correlative Conjunctions? Learn the definition, how to use, and see examples.

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Grammar Tip Tuesday

What are Correlative Conjunctions?

There are three types of conjunctions used to join words and groups of words in a sentence: Coordinating conjunctions (aka: FANBOYS), Subordinating Conjunctions (aka: SWABI) and Correlative Conjunctions.

Correlative conjunctions are specific pairs of words used to show the relationship between two or more separate words ideas in a sentence.

How are correlative conjunctions different from other types of conjunctions?

We often use the coordinating and subordinating conjunctions and, but, so, since, or because when expressing the relationship between our thoughts.

Sometimes adding one word can make the difference, but in grammar and in life, some things work better in pairs. For example, you need a pair of scissors, or a pair of shoes, you also need a pair of correlative conjunctions in the same sentence to use them correctly.

 You might not recognize correlative conjunctions in sentences or know how to use correlative conjunctions correctly.

Let's review examples of correlative conjunctions

  • if/then

  • whether/or

  • neither/nor

  • either/or

  • both/and 

  • as much/as

  • no sooner/than

  • not/but rather

  • just as/so

  • not only/but also

  • rather/than

  • such/that

Note: Correlative conjunctions can also use the same word ( the/the or as/as).

Examples of correlative conjunctions in a sentence

Not only/but: The store not only had a store-wide sale but also an additional 60% discount off sale items.

Both/and: When you’re both the shopper and the bargain hunter, these things make you happy.

 Neither/nor: Unfortunately, neither my bank account , nor my budget indicated that I should spend money on things I didn't need.

Just as/so: The problem is: Just as a moth is drawn to a flame, so is a serial shopper drawn to signs that say "Sale."

When should you use correlative conjunctions?

-Use correlative conjunctions when you want to express you lack confidence in choices available.

Ex. Whether I go to the mall or the corner store, there is no guarantee they'll have the what I need.

-Use correlative conjunctions when you want to clarify why one thing is not true and another is.

Ex. It's not that they don't understand, but rather they have no interest in understanding or agreeing.

-Use to show how two things are similar as well as equal.

Ex. In overcrowded cities, riding a bike is as much a form of exercise as it is an alternative form of transportation.

There are many ways and reasons to join our ideas and changing the types of conjunctions we use can improve the way you speak and write and provide more clarity for your reader.

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