What is a correlative conjunction?

Correlative conjunctions are sets of paired conjunctions that are always used together in a sentence. For example eitheror…, bothand…, etc. They join two words or phrases, and even clauses. Look at these examples:

  • Pamela was so strong that she could carry all her shopping home by herself.
  • We were in two minds: whether to eat at home or go to a restaurant.

Correlative conjunctions are mostly used in writing and they serve to make a comparison between two things that are equally important. The relation between two things can be equal (ex. they liked both Bobby and Terry very much. They were great dogs), different (I would rather fly than go by bus), etc.

Commas and correlative conjunctions

When using correlative conjunctions to join clauses, we normally use a comma.

  • Not only was she pretty, but also very intelligent.

However, when we join two elements that are not independent, we do not use a comma.

  • Neither my sister nor I liked the dress.

Subject-verb agreement

The subject-verb agreement can be tricky with correlative conjunctions, so we need to pay great attention if we want to use them correctly.

  • Both teachers and students were happy with the exam results (not: both teachers and students was happy with the exam results.)
  • Neither Laura nor Sally enjoys doing laundry. (not: neither Laura not Sally enjoy doing laundry.)

Here are some examples of correlative conjunctions:


  • Let’s go either to Bath or Bournemouth. I need a change of scene.
  • Either a nurse or a doctor will visit you in the morning.


  • Neither Sam nor Pam can swim.
  • I have neither time nor patience to watch that boring film.


  • This balcony is both large and cosy.
  • Both her parents and her brother liked her boyfriend.


  • I don’t know whether to cook something or to order takeaway.
  • Whether you like it or not, you must take the dog for a walk.


  • I would rather take a taxi than walk home in this weather.
  • I don’t understand Sara. She would rather go on holiday alone than with her family.


  • The question the teacher asked was such that you couldn’t answer it straight.
  • It was such a small apartment, that I didn’t have to work much to keep it neat and tidy.

No Sooner/when

  • No sooner did she start wondering where he was, when he gave her a call.

As Many/as

  • There were as many tickets as there were children

Not only/but also

  • The basketball team not only won the championship but also founded a charity in that country.
 Correlative conjunctions
Correlative conjunctions

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