Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are pairs of words that join or correlate phrases or words with equal importance in a sentence.

"Correlative Conjunctions" in English Grammar

What Are Correlative Conjunctions?

Correlative conjunctions are pairs that join words, phrases, or clauses togeter. They get their name from the fact that they work together (co-) and relate one sentence element to another.

Correlative Conjunctions in English

In the list below, you can see the common correlative conjunctions in English:

Correlative Conjunctions: Uses

As mentioned before, we can use correlative conjunctions to join words, phrases, and clauses. Check the table below to see how each of them can be used:

Conjunctions thatjoin words and phrases Conjunctions thatjoin clauses
not...but either...or
either...or neither...nor
neither...nor both...and
both...and whether...or
not only...but also not only...but also
as...so

Look at the examples below:

I see that you went for not iced tea but coffee.

two nouns

You can come either with me or with your mom.

two phrases

She likes both singing and dancing.

two nouns

Neither he nor I could put up with that behavior.

two pronouns

The trip was not only economical but also pleasant.

two adjectives

Either I fly to New York or I take the bus.

two clauses

We neither could visit the zoo, nor could we climb the mountain.

two clauses

He wished both to win the prize and to be the champion.

two clauses

I don’t know whether he was trying to hurt me or to scare me.

two clauses

He not only tried to surprise me but also organized a big party for my birthday.

two clauses

As a mother loves her children, so a teacher cares for the students.

two clauses

Subject-verb Agreement

When we connect two subjects using a correlative conjunction, the second subject must agree with the verb.

Each morning either the dog or the birds wake me up.

Here, 'birds' is a plural subject in the second part, so you must use a plural verb.

Each morning either the birds or the dog wakes me up.

Here, 'the dog' is a singular subject in the second part, so you must use a singular verb.

Pronoun Agreement

If we connect two nouns that are followed by a pronoun using a correlative conjunction, the second noun must agree with the pronoun that follows. Compare the examples:

Neither Sara nor her friends could hide their joy at the party.

Neither her friends nor Sara could hide her joy at the party.

Although grammatically correct, it may sound strange to a native speaker. To make it sound natural, use the plural antecedent in the second position so that you can choose the more natural 'their'.

Punctuation Rule

The general punctuation rule for correlative conjunction pairs like 'not only...but also' is to not use a comma between the two clauses that are being connected. But, like many rules, it has exceptions:

Not only does he like carrots, but he also likes broccoli.

If the second conjunction comes before an independent clause, use a comma.

because of the short words, we do not need a punctuation mark

Both...And

The correlative conjunction 'both...and' is used to connect two elements that are true or applicable at the same time. It can be used to connect subjects or objects. Look at the examples:

Both Allan and Charlie went to the zoo.

Mike loved both the movie and the book.

Either...Or

'Either...or' is used to present a choice between two options. It can be used to connect words, phrases, or clauses that are similar in grammatical structure and function. When 'either...or' is used with two singular nouns, the verb can be either singular or plural. However, the singular verb form is more commonly used in formal writing, while the plural verb form is more commonly used in informal writing or speech. If either of the elements connected by 'either...or' is plural, the verb should also be plural.

Either the cat or the dog is making noise

more formal

Either the cat or the dog are making noise

informal

Either the cats or the dogs are making noise.

Neither...Nor

The correlative conjunction 'neither...nor' is used to present a negative choice between two options. It is the opposite of 'either...or' and is used to indicate that none of the two options is true or applicable. When 'neither...nor' is used with two singular nouns, the verb can be either singular or plural. The singular verb form is more commonly used in formal contexts. If either of the elements connected by 'neither...nor' is plural, the verb should also be plural.

I neither loved nor cared for that man.

Warning

'Neither...nor' has a negative role in the sentence. Do not use a double negative when using 'neither...nor' in a sentence. Pay attention to the following example:

We talked about neither the communication problem nor the money issue. (Not We didn't talk about ...)

Whether...Or

'Whether...Or' is used to indicate a choice between two possibilities. For example:

He doesn't know whether to go or stay.

When one of these possibilities has a negative structure, we can use three different alternatives:

She has to take that job offer whether she goes to Italy or not.

Whether or not she goes to Italy, she has to take that job offer.

Whether she goes to Italy or whether she doesn't, she has to take that job offer.

Not Only...But Also

The correlative conjunction 'not only...but also' is used to connect two elements, such as nouns or whole clauses, in a sentence. It is used to emphasize that in addition to the first element, something else is also true.
The second part of 'not only...but also' can be split apart, allowing additional information to be inserted between the two words. However, 'not only' cannot be split apart in this way. Pay attention to the examples:

I like not only coffee but also tea.

Not only is he a great husband, but he is also an amazing dad.

As...So

'As...so', or more informally, 'just as...so' is used to compare two people or things that are similar.

Just as the youth love their hectic lifestyle, so the elderly love their tranquil lifestyle.

Not...But

'Not...but' connects nouns or entire clauses. It is used to emphasize that something is true and the other one is not.

I see that you went for not iced tea but coffee.

Review

As you know, conjunctions connect clauses, phrases, or nouns. Correlative conjunctions are used with clauses of the same importance. Correlative conjunctions work together and we need them in different parts of clauses.

Look at the following table to get to know correlative conjunctions.

1. both/and 5. not only/but also
2. either/or 6. as/so
3. neither/nor 7. as/as
4. whether/or 8. not/but

Look at some examples to be more clarified.

It is neither honest nor fair to steal money from your father's pocket.

Not only he cheated, but also he was ok with it.

As much as my mother is neat, so my dad is untidy.

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