When I arrived at their house, the big dog, which was called Rover, was barking loudly because it was lonely.

Conjunctions link parts of a sentence either by co-ordination or by subordination.

co-ordination We played badly and it was raining.
subordination We played badly because it was raining.


Linking by co-ordination

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The house looked good and the sun was shining.

In co-ordination, the conjunction must stand between the linked items:

The house looked good and the sun was shining.Or:

The sun was shining and the house looked good.

But not: And the sun was shining, the house looked good.

Conjunctions linking by co-ordination:

And, or, but (and perhaps: so, then) are co-ordinating conjunctions.

  • Coordinating conjunctions can link words, phrases and clauses, while subordinating conjunctions only apply to clauses. The only restriction is that the linked items should be similar.

Coordinated words: school and playground looked lovely.Coordinated phrases: The old school and the playground looked lovely.

Coordinated clauses: The house looked good but it was raining.

Coordinating conjunctions give less information than subordinating conjunctions.


Linking by subordination

The house looked good because it had been painted.When I arrived at their house, the dog was barking loudly.

In subordination the conjunction must move around with the subordinate clause, or else the meaning will be changed:

The house looked good because it had been painted.Or:

Because it had been painted, the house looked good.

But not: The house had been painted because it looked good.

Conjunctions linking by subordination:

Subordinating conjunctions link clauses.

I’ll come home if it rains.They can be classified in much the same way as prepositions, but the range of meanings is more abstract than for prepositions:

  • place

where, wherever

  • time

when, whenever, while, after, before, since, till, until, once, nowas soon as, as long as


  • reason

because, as, since, for, although, though, to, in order to, so as to

  • similarity and contrast

as, than, whereas, while

  • condition

    if, unless, provided

Self-assessment on conjunctions

[2016 note: unfortunately the links no longer work, but you may find the exercise useful even without the answers.]

In the following passage pick out all the conjunctions (ignoring the distractors) and decide whether they are subordinating or co-ordinating conjunctions.

When I was seven years old, my great-auntie asked me if I would like to start playing the piano. For many years before that, when I used to visit her, I‘d go into her front room and play her grand-piano; just messing around and making up tunes. Although she was seventy eight at the time, she was marvellous for her age. She’d play the organ at many weddings and every Sunday at Brynna church. She was a well-known, popular woman.



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