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Coordinating Conjunctions (FANBOYS)


Coordinating conjunctions are the glue that binds together the pieces of a sentence. As their name implies, they join elements—words, phrases, or clauses—of equal weight. English has seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (which you can remember using the mnemonic FANBOYS):

  • For indicates causation: “We left a day early, for the weather was not as clement as we had anticipated.”
  • And juxtaposes two or more items without specifying a relationship between them: “neorealism, neoclassical realism, and realist constructivism”; “Mearsheimer subscribes to one approach, and Waltz argues for another.”
  • Nor supplements a previously stated negation: “neither fish nor fowl”; “The results did not confirm the hypothesis, nor did they suggest any particular alternative explanation.”
  • But signals a contradiction, caveat, or other tension: “this oft-cited but inaccurate account”; “There was no precedent for such an approach, but the team forged ahead.”
  • Or indicates alternatives: “Give me liberty or give me death.”
  • Yet, like "but," means “nevertheless” or “in spite of” something: “There was no precedent for such an approach, yet the team forged ahead.”
  • So, like "for," indicates reasoning or causation; while "for" indicates the cause, "so" introduces the effect: “The weather was not as clement as we had anticipated, so we left a day early.”

 

Coordinating Conjunctions at the Clausal Level

Coordinating conjunctions link independent clauses. Which conjunction you use can significantly alter the meaning of the sentence. Take this example:

The workers had a few more weeks of renovations to complete, _____ the landlord said we could move in now.

Which conjunction would you choose?

  • Depending on the context, “but” or “yet” could suggest that you think the landlord is doing you a favor: you get to move in despite the construction. Alternatively, “but” or “yet” could suggest that you disagree with the soundness of this idea.
  • Choosing “so” will suggest that the landlord thinks a few weeks of living with construction is reasonable—that the work is far enough along to invite you to move in.
  • “For” would make sense if the invitation to move in somehow caused an additional few weeks of renovations.
  • “And” doesn't give us much information beyond the fact that these two events happened—the renovation and the invitation.
  • The first clause isn’t a negative form, so “nor” would not apply here.
  • Likewise, these two statements are not alternatives—both are happening—so “or” would also be unsuitable.

Note that, whichever word best fits your meaning, joining clauses with a coordinating conjunction calls for a comma; see the FANBOYS commas page for more details.

Finally, when writing a sentence that uses coordinating conjunctions, think carefully about the order of the clauses. Try plugging conjunctions into this version of the sentence and observe the different meanings and effects the new order creates:

The landlord said we could move in now, _____ the workers had a few more weeks of renovations to complete.
 

More Information on Coordinating Conjunctions

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All-Topics Index


The following index makes searching for a specific topic easier and links to the appropriate place in the sequenced material. We think we have most of them, but please email us at writingcenter@nps.edu if we are missing something!

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A

abbreviations

abstracts

academic writing

acronyms

active voice

apostrophes

argument

article usage

assignments, understanding them

audience

 

B

body paragraphs

brainstorming

building better sentences tips

 

C

citations

citation styles

clarity

clustering

coaching sessions, about

colons

commas, FANBOYS

commas, introductory

commas, list

commas, nonessential elements

commas, Oxford

commonly confused words 

compare-and-contrast papers 

concision

conclusions

conjunctive adverbs

coordinating conjunctions

copyright and fair use

critical thinking  

 

D

dangling modifiers

dashes

dependent marker words

double submission of coursework

drafting

 

E

edit your own work

editing – outside editors

exclamation points

executive summary

 

F

FANBOYS

FAQs

footnotes

free-writing

 

G

gerunds

grammar

group writing

 

H

hyphens

 

I

ibid.

introductions

 

J

Joining the Academic Conversation

 

L

LaTeX

library liaisons 

literature reviews 

logic and analysis 

 

M

memos

methodologies

 

N

note-taking

numbers

 

O

organization

outlining

Oxford comma

 

P

paragraph development 

parallelism

paraphrasing

parts of speech

passive voice

periods

persuasion

phrases and clauses

plagiarism, how to avoid through citations

plain language

polishing

prepositional phrases 

prepositions

pronouns

punctuation

purpose of research

 

Q

questions

quotation marks 

quoting

 

R

reading with intent

redundancies                                                                

reference software

reflection papers 

research

research questions

reverse outlining 

revising passive voice into active voice

revision

roadmaps                                            

run-on sentences 

 

S

self-citing

semi-colons

subjects, grammatical

significance

so-what?

spelling

standard essay structure

STEM/technical writing 

style

subject/verb agreement

 

T

technical writing

that vs. which

thesis writing

thesis advisors

thesis process overview

thesis process tips

thesis proposals – common elements                                                     

thesis statements

tone, professional

topic sentences 

transitions

types of papers

 

U

United States or U.S.?

 

V

verbs and verb tense

 

W

which vs. that

Why write?

writer’s block 

writing process