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Coordinating Conjunctions — The Definitive Guide

Coordinating Conjunctions — The Definitive Guide

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“Coordinating conjunctions.” What are these things again? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of them before. Oh, wait. Aren’t they those kids who are obsessed with superhero comics?”

If this sentiment sounds familiar, then you are on the right page right now. 

Roughly speaking, coordination is one of the fundamentals of grammar. Needless to say, it is quite important in speaking and writing.

So, we’ve covered the nooks and crannies of this topic for you.

Let’s get right into it.


What are coordinating conjunctions?

Coordinating conjunctions, mnemonically known as FANBOYS, are connectors used in forming compound sentences. FANBOYS stands for “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” and “so.” They link two equally complete and meaningful independent clauses, and they are preceded with a comma most of the time.


The 7 coordinating conjunctions “FANBOYS”: For, and, nor, but, or, yet, & so

As you may have heard or read before, seven words make up the notorious set of coordinating conjunctions in English.

For, and, nor, but, yet, and so comprise the popular mnemonic device FANBOYS. These words are grammatically identified as “coordinating conjunctions.”

At first glance, these words may seem trivial because, well, we get to use them all the time. However, many people out there still don’t fully get the hang of how to use the FANBOYS right.

The confusion mainly comes from punctuation-related matters. In particular, the rules on comma usage with FANBOYS are what’s mainly rocking the boat.

Coordinating conjunctions are used in building what we call compound sentences in grammar. These types of sentences are made up of two independent or stand-alone clauses.

Coordinating conjunctions and commas are soulmates. This is simply why relationship issues regarding the two cannot be avoided.

To roughly get rid of the confusion, though, going over our quick comma cheat sheet should be more than helpful.

But, in retrospect, what exactly do FANBOYS do? And, is this topic even worth discussing? 

Apparently, it is. This knowledge should come in handy if you want to make your writing more precise, cohesive, coherent, or put simply – professional.

So, why don’t we go over these FANBOYS one at a time?


The coordinating conjunction “for”

In grammar, the word “for” belongs to two different parts of speech. Namely, it can be used either as a conjunction or preposition.

“For,” when used as a coordinating conjunction, means “because” or “since.” More precisely though, it suggests the meaning “for the reason that.”

However, it could also be used as a preposition in building sentences. This happens when it is followed by a noun or pronoun afterward.

Interestingly enough, people also ask whether “for” is an adverb or not. This grammatical unrest is understandable because “for” is meanwhile used for introducing adverbials.

Adverbials are a group of words that can modify verbs, adjectives, as well as adverbs. Adverbials are useful because they answer how, when, how often, and why things happen.

Since “for” can start off adverbial clauses and phrases and be used either as a conjunction or preposition, people normally find identifying its part of speech tricky.

When we coordinate two independent clauses with the conjunction “for,” we aim at expressing a cause-and-effect relationship.

In between these cause-and-effect independent clauses, we need to use a necessary comma to mark their grammatical distinction.


Please excuse me for being absent yesterday, for I had been sick all day.


He was chosen as his late father’s successor, for he had outshined his siblings in managing their business.


I would like to express my deepest apologies to you, for I was one of the main reasons why things went out of control.


The coordinating conjunction “and”

The coordinating conjunction “and” is used to connect related ideas together. It is mainly used to add another idea to an existing one.

Unlike “for,” “and” only belongs to a single grammatical category – not unless you’re dealing with electronic circuits because that’s a whole different story.

If we go a mile deeper, we can also identify “and” as a form of additive conjunction. In this vein, it works the like the words “furthermore,” “in addition,” and “besides.”

If we apply the comma rules for coordinating conjunctions, it is needless to say that a comma before “and” should be used when it links two independent clauses.


I went to the beach, and I swam for hours.


Dad goes to the garage every afternoon, and he does some dad stuff there.


You’ll be cleaning the house in the morning, and you’ll be mowing the grass in the afternoon.

Aside from linking clauses, note that the conjunction “and” may also be used to create parallel structures and serial lists.

In general, you would need a comma before “and” in a list if you follow the American English style. Also known as the Oxford comma, this serial comma is often dropped in British English.


(AmE) He likes the colors blue, red, and orange.


(BrE) He likes the colors blue, red and orange.

Meanwhile, parallel structures refer to the idea of using similar word patterns to suggest that they are equally important.

This parallel structure makes use of gerunds.


Alice likes snowboarding, deep-sea diving, and paragliding.

This parallel structure makes use of infinitives, wherein the preposition “to” is usually omitted after the first item to avoid redundancy.


Sarah likes to cook, read, and write.


The coordinating conjunction “nor”

Now, let us also talk about “nor.” In the simplest terms possible, “nor” is used to suggest the meaning “not or.”

This means that “nor” is used as a negating device in the English language. It is used to further cancel or deny the validity or truth value of the first idea given.

Like the other coordinating conjunctions introduced earlier, a comma before “nor” is necessary when it is used to link another independent clause in a compound sentence.


He does not like soda, nor does he like beer.


Amy hasn’t been to Paris, nor has she gone anywhere in France.


I never wanted to cause you pain, nor have I ever intentionally considered doing so.

Besides its conjunctive function, “nor” may also be used either as an adverb or noun. When used as an adverb, it becomes the literary form of “neither.”

Just like “AND,” “NOR” is meanwhile used in the field of electronics. It gives off a value of zero, and it is more popularly known as “NOR gate.”

Coordinating Conjunctions

The coordinating conjunction “but”

As you may have already learned before, “but” is a conjunction used for contrasts. This word links two ideas that are different or poles apart.

“But” can actually be used as a conjunction, preposition, adverb, and noun. When used as a coordinating conjunction, its job is to link two opposing independent clauses together.

Suggesting the same meaning as “nevertheless” and “however,” “but” is most likely the go-to connector in casual spoken contexts.

As expected, a comma should also come before “but” when it is used to attach a secondary or latter-position independent clause.


India loves mice, but she hates cats.


Emma eats like a horse, but she never gains weight.


My dog Bullet would like to go to the park, but it is too hot outside.

Note, though, that a comma should not be used when using “but” to connect incomplete ideas, such as phrases and dependent clauses.


The new manager is intimidating but handsome.

When used as a preposition, no comma should come before “but” too.


He said he’d talk to nobody else but me.

When used as a noun, “but” is also less likely preceded or succeeded with a comma.


Don’t give me any buts. Just do what you’re told to.


The coordinating conjunction “or”

Like “and,” “or” is also used creating for parallel structures. However, “or” has more like a replacement or substitution function.

“Or” is used to replace an idea with an alternative one. Hence, it suggests the meaning “alternatively” or “on the other hand.”

Placing a comma before or after “or” is also dictated by a few grammatical and stylistic forces, just like its closest kins “and” and “but.”


Stop talking nonsense, or I will leave you here.


You can take that home with you, or you can just give that to someone else.


You had better start investing more in your health now, or you will regret it when it’s too late.

Like “and,” “or” is also used a lot for listing a series of items. So, once again, whether or not you should omit the final comma in a list depends on your style preference.

Not limited to that, your go-to strategy should also be dependent on your text’s context and readability. At the end of the day, you are writing for your audience and not yourself.


The coordinating conjunction “yet”

Also an adverb at the same time, the coordinating conjunction “yet” suggests the meaning “but still.” It can also join two independent clauses.

“Yet” has a contrastive function just like “but.” This means that it is used to link two opposing or conflicting ideas.

However, unline “but”, “yet” is more likely used to introduce something that is especially surprising or unexpected.


It is only 4 am, yet I am already awake.


Writers run out of ideas too, yet most of them know how to deal with this problem.


Mr. Walter is already a septuagenarian, yet he manages to run a good mile every morning and afternoon.

Knowing when to place a comma before or after “yet” also has its own set of rules. These rules can only be mastered through practice and exposure.

A comma should always come before “yet” when it is used to introduce a complete clause. But bear in mind that “yet” may also be used as an adverb. 

When the adverb “yet” is used as the final word in the first clause, the comma should also come after it.


I haven’t finished eating yet, but you can start now.


The coordinating conjunction “so”

An adverb of degree at the same time, the last coordinating conjunction among the FANBOYS “so” is used to introduce cause and condition.

Suggesting the meaning “for that reason,” “so” is a conjunction used to express and link the effect or consequence of an action or event.

If you think about it, the coordinating conjunction “so” simply suggests the meaning “that’s why,” “therefore,” “thus,” or “hence.”

Correctly using a comma before or after “so” depends on grammar and style. So, while there are hard rules on the placement, writers could also tweak them as they wish.


I had run out of gas, so I went to the station.


The music was too loud, so I couldn’t hear you earlier.


She used to be hotheaded as a puppy, so we named her Buttercup.

Take note that “so” also suggests the meaning “so that.” When this happens, “so” is used to link a dependent clause, and therefore, no comma should be used before it.


Banks implement strict processes so as to ensure safety.


Please speak louder so we could hear you more.

Finally, “so” may also be used as an adverb of degree to mean “very” or “really.” This usage should be easy to spot compared to the conjunctive ones.


It’s so hot in Florida in July.
Here’s a recap of all of the coordinating conjunctions making up the FANBOYS.
Coordinating Conjunctions
ForI would like to express my deepest apologies to you, for I was one of the main reasons why things went out of control.
AndI went to the beach, and I swam for hours.
NorAmy hasn’t been to Paris, nor has she gone anywhere in France.
ButEmma eats like a horse, but he never gains weight.
OrYou can take that home with you, or you can just give that to someone else.
YetIt is only 4 am, yet I am already awake.
SoI had run out of gas, so I went to the station.


The role of coordinating conjunctions in grammar

From the expression itself, coordinating conjunctions are used to “coordinate” or harmonize equally important ideas.

In syntax, the coordination process helps us combine ideas into a shorter one. That said, it is admittedly useful in avoiding redundancy.

Coordinating conjunctions could actually form compound subjects and predicates, such as in “Lily and Leilani” and “singing and dancing.”

This particular sentence formation process is one of the fundamental features of English syntax.

To understand coordination as well as other basic syntactic processes, our beginner’s guide to syntax should be able to help you out.

As we already know, coordinating conjunctions are used in forming compound sentences. Compound sentences are made up of two equally complete and meaningful clauses.

That said, coordinating conjunctions are not used to connect an independent clause to a dependent clause because that’s the job of subordinating conjunctions.

Subordinating conjunctions meanwhile form “complex” rather than compound sentences. These kinds of sentences are at least one level higher than compounds.

Coordinating conjunctions do not operate in pairs either because that’s the job of correlative conjunctions, which is way more advanced.

In a nutshell, coordinating conjunctions help us form similarly important ideas in a logical way. This makes the English language more creative and interesting to learn.


Special coordinating conjunctions other than FANBOYS: Although, whereas, and while

Special Coordinating Conjunctions
AlthoughAlthough it was raining heavily, he decided to go for a walk in the park.
WhereasPeter likes to stay indoors and read, whereas his uncle prefers to go outside and play tennis.
WhileMy sister loves to dance, while I prefer to make beats.

While we’ve already covered the most important parts of coordinating conjunctions, there are some special cases that we do have to consider too.

“While,” “although,” and “whereas” are three special conjunctions that belong under the subordinating type.

However, they may also be used as coordinating conjunctions at times. When this happens, a comma essentially goes before each word.

“Although” can be used to mean “but” or “however.” “While” can be used to mean “whereas” or “during that time.” “Whereas” can mean “although” or “while.”

Pretty cool, right? To use these words effectively, you might want to check out how to use “whereas” as well as “while” and  “although”  in detail during your free time.



By this point, we hope we have been able to help in refreshing your memory on one of the first things we learned about English grammar.

Here’s the key takeaway: Whether we call them FANBOYS or coordinating conjunctions, we can never deny how useful these words are both in writing and speaking.


Frequently Asked Questions on “Coordinating Conjunctions Guide”


Is “because” a coordinating conjunction?

“Because” is a subordinating conjunction and not a coordinating type. It is used to link the cause or reason behind an event.


Can you use a coordinating conjunction at the beginning of a sentence?

Stylistically speaking, it is possible to use coordinating conjunctions like “and,” “but,” “yet,” “so,” and “or,” especially in informal and literary writing contexts. Idealistically and grammatically speaking, though, doing this is not encouraged by some grammarians.


What is a simple word for “coordinating conjunctions”?

FANBOYS is a simple word for “coordinating conjunctions.” Using this mnemonic device instead of the more technical expression is encouraged in the primary years of learning.