Correlative Conjunctions

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

Intermediate
"Correlative Conjunctions" in English Grammar

What Are Correlative Conjunctions?

Correlative conjunctions are in pairs and are used to join words, phrases, or clauses. 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 correlative conjunctions in English:

How to use Correlative Conjunctions?

As mentioned before, we can use a correlative conjunction to join words, phrases, and clauses. Check the table below to know how to use them to join different parts of a sentence.

Conjunctions to join words and phrases Conjunctions to join 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 me nor him 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 did we climb the mountain.

two clauses

He wished both to win the prize and to be the best 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 with correlative conjunctions, 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 names that come before a pronoun (which are called antecedents) with correlative conjunctions, the second name agrees with the pronoun that follows.

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 a bit weird to a native speaker. To make it sound natural, use the plural antecedent in the second position so that you can then choose the natural 'their'.

Punctuation Rule

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

Sometimes, with correlative conjunction pairs like 'not only/but also', people don't know whether to use a comma or not. If you're one of those people, the basic rule is: Do NOT use commas with correlative conjunctions. 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.

Both/And

'Both/and' join either two subjects or two objects. Look at the examples:

Both Allan and Carlie went to the zoo.

Mike loved both the movie and the book.

Either/Or

We use either/or to connect things which are the same grammatical type, e.g. words, phrases, clauses. When either/or is used with two singular nouns, the verb can be singular or plural. A plural verb is more informal. If any of the elements are plural, the verb is plural.

Either the cat or the dog was found.

Neither/Nor

'Neither/nor' is the opposite of 'either/or'. We use it to make negative statements joining two things or ideas.
When neither/nor is used with two singular nouns, the verb can be singular or plural. A plural verb is more informal. If any of the elements are plural, the verb is plural.

I neither loved nor cared for that man.

Be careful! Neither/nor has a negative role in the sentence. Do not to use a double negative with them.

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

Whether/Or

'Whether/Or' is used to express a choice between two possibilities.

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

'Not only/but also' connects nouns or entire clauses. It's used to emphasize that something else is also true. The second half of 'Not only/but also' can be split apart. But you cannot split 'Not only'.

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, when they 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's used to emphasize that something else 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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