Grammar Guru: How To Use Conjunctions

Grammar Guru

Puzzled about punctuation? Confused about commas? The Grammar Guru is here to help!

Conjunctions are used to join words or phrases together. The most common conjunctions are “and”, “but” and “or”.

Here are some examples of conjunctions being used correctly:

“Simon is a big fan of the Beatles, the Clash and the Rolling Stones.”

“Jessica ordered a small but delicious slice of cake.”

“William doesn’t like apples or oranges.”

You will notice that “however” does not appear in the above list. That is because “however” IS NOT a conjunction! This is one of the most common mistakes people make: “however” should not be used to join two parts of a sentence together.

“However” can be used to move from one sentence to another sentence, as in this example:

“Susan loves the colour yellow. However, her friend Amanda prefers pink.”

In this example, “however” is a transitional word which links two separate sentences. Never be tempted to use “however” to link two parts of one sentence – it will mark you out at once as a grammar novice.

Finally, many people had it drummed into them at school that you should never start a sentence with a conjunction.

The rules around this are more relaxed than they used to be, and in most quarters it is considered acceptable to start the occasional sentence with “And” or “But” for added impact: “Anna peered nervously into the shadows. But there was no-one there.”

Just don’t do it too often, or it will quickly irritate your reader!

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Angela Gilchrist

Angela is Former Editor-in-Chief of “The People’s Friend” magazine. Her passions include cats, Highland ponies, good books, vegetarian food and long walks in the Scottish countryside. Her favourite place to get away from it all is the magical Isle of Skye.