Conjunctions in English Grammar

Conjunctions join two words or sentences. They have no other function except joining. Some Relative Adjectives, Relative Adverbs and Prepositions also do the function of joining, but they are not called conjunctions because besides joining they perform the functions of Adjectives, Adverbs and Prepositions also. Conjunctions only join and perform no other function. The following are the Rules of their correct use:

Correlative Conjunctions in English Grammar

Rule 1. Correlative Conjunctions

Some conjunctions, called Correlative Conjunctions, are used in pairs only. Their use is correct only in pairs, not otherwise. The more popular pairs are these:

conjunctions in english grammar
  • I shall either read or write a story.
  • He is neither strong nor courageous.
  • Both Mohan and Ram have passed.
  • Though he is poor yet he is honest.
  • I will go whether he comes or not.
  • He will not only encourage you but also help you.
  • Work hard lest you should fail.
  • No sooner had he reached the station than the train started.
  • It was hardly / scarcely ten O’clock when I called on him.
  • He is as much greedy as miserable.

Rule 2. Position of Correlative Conjunctions

The above noted Correlative Conjunctions are not only used in pairs but the position of their use in a sentence is also governed by some rules.

The basic rule of their use is that one part of the Pair is used in one part of the sentence and the other part of the pair in the other part of the sentence.

Further, if the first part of the pair is used before a Noun, the second part should also be used before a Noun, not before a Verb, Adjective or Adverb.

Likewise, if the first part is used before a Verb, Adjective or Adverb, the second part should also be used accordingly. It is a very important rule. Errors are often committed in their correct application.

Sometimes even great authors commit errors in their application. For example, see this sentence:

“He gave me not only food but also shelter.”

In this sentence the use of not only and but also is correct because in the first part of the sentence not only is used before the Noun food, and but also is used in the second part of the sentence before the Noun shelter.

The above sentence would be wrong if we write it as follows:

“He not only gave me food but also shelter.”

The error in this sentence is that not only is used before a Verb and but also before a Noun.

Rule 3. Either…… or / Neither …… nor

Either …… or and neither …… nor can be used as Conjunctions and also as Pronouns and Adjectives. As Pronouns and Adjectives they are used only for two persons or things, but as Conjunctions they can be used for two or in more than two other words.

As Conjunctions they can be used for two or more than two persons or things. As:

  • Neither Ram nor his father, nor even his friend could be of any help to me.
  • Neither power nor wealth, nor position can hold back the march of law.
  • Either my father or my brother or my uncle will help me in my hour of need.
  • Either Kanpur or Lucknow or Agra will be good enough to settle down after retirement.

Rule 4. Not either …… or

After Not either we should use ‘or’ (not ‘nor’).

  • Your friend is not either reasonable or fair. (‘nor fair’ is wrong.)
  • This book is not either exhaustive or up-to-date. (‘nor up-to-date’ is wrong.)

Rule 5. No / Not / Never …… or

If in a sentence there comes no / not / never, and after them a full clause, the clause would be connected by the conjunction or, not nor. As:

  • He has no relation or friend who can support him. (not ‘nor’)
  • He has not a relation or a friend who can support him. (not ‘nor’)

Rule 6. Until / Unless

Both these are negative conjunctions, therefore no negative expression (as not, never, etc.) should be used with them, otherwise there would be the fault of double negatives.

Therefore, such expressions as ‘unless he does not help’ or ‘until he does not come are wrong. Their correct forms would be unless he helps’ or ‘until he comes.’

Note: Here it should also be remembered that until is a Conjunction of time, while unless is a Conjunction of condition. They should not be used in each other’s place. As:

  • I shall wait until you come. (Showing time)
  • I shall fail unless you help me. (Showing condition)

Rule 7. Other / Rather …… than

After Other / rather and most of Comparative Degree Adjectives the conjunction ‘than’ is used. As:

  • I would rather go than stay at home.
  • I would rather have a car than a scooter.
  • I was helped by no other than the Principal himself.
  • He is stronger than you.
  • She is more beautiful than your sister.

Rule 8. Whether / If

After whether / if we use the Conjunctions ‘or not’ or ‘or no’. As:

  • I do not know whether (or if) he has gone or not.
  • I doubt whether he will help me or not.
  • Whether he will help me or not is doubtful.

Note: (i) If a Negative or an Interrogative sentence has to be made with doubt or doubtful, we should use the conjunction ‘that’ in place of whether / or. As:

  • I do not doubt that he will help me.
  • Is it not doubtful that he will help you ?

(ii) Sometimes by mistake some people use as to before whether. This is a mistake. For example, the use of as to in the following sentences is wrong:

  • I doubt as to whether he will help me or not.
  • I do not know as to whether he is honest or not.

Rule 9. The reason is / the reason why

Some sentences begin with ‘The reason is’ or ‘The reason why’. In such sentences the clause coming after them should be connected with the conjunction ‘that’, not with because, due to or owing to. As:

  • The reason why he failed is that he did not study seriously. (Not ‘because he did not study’ or due to / owing to he did not study’)
  • The reason is that he did not study seriously. (Not, because, due to / owing to’)

Rule 10. Before

When ‘Before’ is used as a Conjunction, it points to some future event or statement, but future tense is not used with it, even if its Principal clause is in the future tense. As:

  • The sun will set before you reach. (Not ‘before you will reach’)
  • He will retire before a month has passed. (Not, ‘will pass’ or ‘will have passed’)

Rule 11. As if / As though

Both these are imaginary or conditional expressions. We should, therefore, use Past Conditional Tense after them, not Present or Future Tense. As:

  • He behaved as if (or as though) he were the king.
  • He danced with joy as if (or as though) he had won the first prize.
  • He helped me as though (or as if) he were my son.

Rule 12—Because / in order that

We use ‘because’ to show reason and ‘in order that’ to show purpose. As:

  • He failed because he did not work hard.
  • He worked hard in order that he may secure first division.

Rule 13. Since (showing time)

When ‘Since’ is used as a conjunction, we should use the verb in the Present Perfect Tense before it and in Past Indefinite Tense after it. As:

  • Many new developments have taken place since I left home.
  • I have never seen him since his father died.

Rule 14. Or (showing alternative or choice)

Conjunction ‘or’ is used to choose one of two or more than two things. As:

  • You can have apples or grapes.
  • You can go to Kanpur or Lucknow.
  • Go at once or you will be late.

Rule 15. While

While is used in two senses:

(i) To show time or period of time.

(ii) To suggest at the same time or along with.


  • While I was in service, I never saw him.
  • While he lived with me, he laboured very hard.
  • While there is life there is hope.
  • While the students slept, the maid cooked the food.
  • While the boys sang, the girls danced.

Rule 16. Because / For / Since

All these three words show cause or reason. The difference in their use is that because has very great force in it, for has the least force, and since comes between the two. As:

  • I must go because my mother is ill.
  • He failed because he did not work hard.
  • He could not catch me up since he was lazy.
  • He cannot be trusted for he takes everything casually.

Rule 17. That

Conjunction that is used in the following forms:

(a) In Indirect Narration: As Conjunction ‘that’ is used only in Indirect Narration, not in Direct Narration. As:

  • He said that he was ill. (Indirect Narration)
  • It is wrong to write:- He said that “ I am ill.” (Direct Narration)

(b) ‘That’ as Conjunction is not used is Interrogative, Imperative, Optative or Exclamatory clauses, whether the whole sentence is in the Direct or Indirect Narration. The use of ‘that’ is wrong in all the following sentences:-

  • He asked me that why I was late.
  • He asked me that “Why are you late?”
  • He said to the servant that “Bring me a glass of water.”
  • He said that how beautiful was the scene !
  • He said that may God bless you !

(c) ‘That’ as Conjunction is not used in clauses beginning with Interrogative Pronouns (which, who, what, etc.) or Interrogative Adverbs (where, why, when, how, etc.). The use of ‘that’ in all the following sentences is wrong:-

  • He asked that what the time was ?
  • He asked that who he was ?
  • I do not know that when he will come?
  • He does not know that where he is ?

Note: But if after the clauses beginning with Interrogative Pronouns or Interrogative there comes the Principal clause Adverbs, the Conjunction ‘that’ will be used. As:

  • I promise that when I come next I will bring your book.

In this sentence the use of that before when is correct because after the clause beginning with when, there comes the Principal clause “I will bring your book.”

  • I know that what he says is not true.

In this sentence also the use of that before what is correct because after that comes the Principal clause “…… is not true.”

(d) There are some Verbs (as, believe, think, hope, presume, suppose, be afraid) the that-clause coming after which has the Conjunction that concealed or understood. As:

  • I believe * he is right. (That is understood at the mark *)
  • I hope * he is now well.
  • I am afraid * he is wrong.

Functional Conjunctions in English Grammar

Rule 18. Conjunctions of Comparison

The following Conjunctions show Comparison: as …… as; not so/as ……as; than (with Comparative Degree Adjective) As:

  • This book is as good as that.
  • This book is not so (as) good as that.
  • This book is better than that.

Rule 19. Conjunctions of Concession

They are: Though, although, even if , for all, no matter, however, whatever, adjective / adverb + as. As:

  • Though he is poor, he is honest.
  • Even if he is selfish, I will help him.
  • For all they say about him, he is a good man.
  • No matter what you say, I will go ahead.
  • However fast he may drive, he cannot reach in time.
  • Whatever be the case, he will remain my friend.
  • Simple as he is, he is not a fool.
  • Roughly as he behaves, he is not a cruel man.

Rule 20. Conjunctions of Condition

The following are Conjunctions of condition: If, unless, provided, provided that, in case, supposing that. As:

  • If you are honest, you will succeed.
  • Unless you are honest, you will not succeed.
  • You will succeed provided you are honest.
  • He will succeed provided that he deals honestly.
  • I will go alone in case he doesn’t come.
  • Supposing that he is honest, he will succeed.

Rule 21. Conjunctions of Cause

The following Conjunctions show cause: Because, since, as, for, that, considering that, seeing that, now that, in that, in as much as, noun + that, adjective + that. As:

  • He failed because he did not study regularly.
  • Since it is raining, I cannot go.
  • As it is raining, I cannot go.
  • Considering that it was very cold, he did not go for swimming.
  • We started late for the morning was very cold.
  • I am glad that he has passed.
  • Seeing that the morning was very foggy, we started late.
  • Now that you have come, I can take a little rest.
  • He deserves praise in that he has secured first position.
  • He must suffer in as much as he is so lazy.
  • A fool that he is, he must suffer.
  • Foolish that his actions are, he must suffer.

Rule 22. Conjunctions of Time

The following are conjunctions of Time: When, while, before, after, till, until, since, as, as soon as. As:

  • I will go when you come.
  • She cooks her food while the child sleeps.
  • I shall get up before the sun rises.
  • He retired to bed after the show was over.
  • Wait for me till I return.
  • Don’t go home until I come.
  • I have known him since he was a child.
  • He woke up as the clock struck six.
  • He got up as soon as he saw me.
  • I shall meet you when you come next.

Note: (1) If the Principal Clause is in the Future Tense, the sub-ordinate clauses beginning with Conjunctions of Time should be used in the Simple Present or Present Perfect Tense (not in Future Tense).

(2) The clause following after is usually in the Present Perfect Tense (not in Simple Present). As:

  • He will return after the train has left.

Rule 23. Use of Tense in Conditional Sentences

Conditional or Supposition sentences can be written in three tenses:

(a) Simple Future Tense

  • If you start early, you will reach in time.
  • If you are honest, you will be respected.

In these sentences the Principal Clause is in Simple Future Tense, while the Subordinate Conditional Clause is in Present Tense (not in Future Tense). As:

  • If you will start early, you will reach in time.

This sentence is wrong because the conditional clause beginning with If is in Future Tense.

(b) Simple Past Tense

  • If he built two houses, he would give you one.
  • If I secured first position, he would give me a golden watch.
  • If you discovered the treasure, you would get your share.

Note: (i) In these sentences Past Tense shows Present or Future Tense.

(c) Past Perfect Tense

  • If I had built two houses, I would have given you one.
  • If I had secured first position, he would have given me a golden watch.
  • If you had discovered the treasure, you would have got your share.

Note: These sentences can also begin with ‘Had’ in place of ‘If’. As:

  • Had I discovered the treasure, I would have got my share.

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