What are conjunctions?

Conjunctions are words that join ideas together. 

(Click here to jump straight to coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.)

We use conjunctions to link two phrases in a sentence. 

For example, let's look at these two ideas:

The wind was strong.

Leaves began to fall.

We can link them using the conjunction 'and' to make this sentence:

'And' is the first conjunction that children learn about. We use the conjunction and to connect two parts of a sentence that are similar grammatically.

The conjunction or

We use the conjunction 'or' when there are two or more options or possibilities. For example:

Abi could go for a boat ride or she could go to the circus. 

Bob doesn't surf or skate in the winter.

The conjunction but

We use the conjunction 'but' to connect contrasting ideas. For example, 

I enjoy my English classes but the teacher is strict. 

My friends are playing football but I have hurt my leg. 

More conjunctions

There are lots of other conjunctions that kids will come across as they are learning to write longer and more interesting sentences.

Sometimes the conjunction can even come at the start of the sentence, for example: 

While I was walking, I looked at the flowers. 

Although it was my job, Kate helped me wash the dishes. 

Whenever you use a conjunction to begin a sentence like this, a comma is needed to separate the two clauses. 

Because it was dark, I decided to look for a spaceship in the sky. 

Different types of conjunction

By the time children reach the end of Key Stage 2, they are expected to tell the difference between the two different types of conjunction: coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. They will have been using these conjunctions since year 2, but won't need to identify them using the terminology until year 6. 

This is an area that parents may struggle to help kids with - even though we use conjunctions every day, telling the different conjunction types apart is not something that most people have to do regularly! Read on for an explainer on coordination and subordination. 

Coordinating conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are words like and, or, but, and so. They join together two phrases that 'coordinate', or are equal to each other. 

It is a sunny morning and the birds are singing. 

And, is the coordinating conjunction here, because it joins two phrases that each make sense on their own and are pretty much equal in importance if we separate them out like this:  

It is a sunny morning. The birds are singing. 

Take a look at these examples and see how they fit:

He was in a hurry but the car wouldn't start.

Pat threw the ball so his dog could chase it. 

Subordinating conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions, like because , while and until link a phrase that gives us more information about the first part of the sentence. 

The prefix 'sub' here, which means under, is a good way to remember that the clause we're joining on is less important than the other. For example:

Cam will be late for dinner if he misses the train. 

If is the subordinate conjunction. It links or introduces the part of the sentence which adds more detail, but which doesn't really mean anything on its own. Look at these examples and see how the subordinating conjunction links these phrases: 

Let's go for a walk while it is dry. 

We can play in the sea until the shark appears. 

Pavel went to town because the fair had opened.

What are conjunctions for?

Conjunctions help us to construct complex, detailed and more interesting sentences. 

Learn how conjunctions help shape sentences by introducing a clause followed by a conjunction and see how it changes what might happen next! For example, 

I ran down the stairs and...

I ran down the stairs but...

I ran down the stairs while...

I ran down the stairs until...

Have fun exploring conjunctions! 

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