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Correlative Conjunctions

Hi dear English learners! In today’s lesson, we will be learning about correlative conjunctions. It sounds like something very difficult but believe me, it is not. You’ve probably been using them all the time without knowing much about them theoretically. You’ve surely said many times that you don’t know what to do – whether to do this or that. Or, I like both strawberry and chocolate ice-cream. These small conjunctions whether, or, both, and are called correlative conjunctions when used together in a sentence. Let’s discuss this topic in more details.

What is correlative conjunction?

Correlative conjunctions are paired conjunctions that are always used together in a sentence. For example either…or…, neither…or…, would rather…than…, 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 equally important things. The relation between two things can be equal (ex. they liked both Bobby and Terry very much. They were great dogs), or different (I would rather fly than go by train), 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.
  • Hardly had I opened my Christmas present, when mum called us for breakfast.

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

  • Neither my sister nor I liked the dress.
  • Both Sarah and her husband were surprised by the beauty of nature in the area.

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:

Either/or

We use the correlative conjunction either…or… to connect two words or clauses. It means that we can choose one out of two options.

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

Neither/nor

The correlative conjunction neither…or… is the opposite of either…or. Use it to connect two negative alternatives.

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

Both/and

We use both..and… to join two things of equal importance. 

  • The balcony in the apartment is both large and cosy.
  • Both her parents and her brother liked her boyfriend.

Whether/or

This correlative conjunction introduces two alternative options.

  • 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.

Would rather/than

Use the correlative conjunction rather…that… to show your preference.

  • 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.

Such/that

Use such…that… to join two clauses – such tells the cause and that tells the result.

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

No Sooner/than

We use this correlative conjunction to show that one thing happens right after another.

  • No sooner does she see other couples than she starts to cry.
  • No sooner did we get out of the club than it started to rain.

Hardly/when

Use the correlative conjunction hardly…when… to join two past actions that happened one after another. 

  • Hardly had I arrived at a restaurant when I saw her coming.
  • Hardly did Michael start eating when the phone rang.

As/as

Use this correlative conjunction to compare things. The structure is as + adjective/adverb + as + noun/noun phrase/pronoun. If you want to show the difference between these things, use not before the correlative conjunction.

  • Today will be as sunny as it was yesterday.
  • Our house is not as big as yours.

As many/as

Use as many…as… to compare two countable things.

  • There were as many tickets as there were children.
  • In this school, we can take as many lessons as we like.

As much/as

Use as much…as… to compare two uncountable things.

  • My parents gave me as much money as they could.
  • Don’t hesitate to eat as much fruit salad as you like. It won’t make you fat.

Not only/but also

Use not only…but also… for emphasis.

  • The basketball team not only won the championship but also founded a charity in that country.
  • Brenda was not only educated and intelligent but also pretty and well-mannered.
Correlative conjunctions
Correlative conjunctions
 Correlative conjunctions
Correlative conjunctions

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