Language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for human communications (Wardhaugh, 1972: 3). From this definition, it implies that language must be systematic. All languages have dual system of sounds and meaning. Linguists concern themselves not only with the characteristics of the two systems but also with how the systems relate to each other within one overall linguistic system for a particular language.A related problem concerns the coverage of the system; we could not possibly make a dictionary of the sentences in a language in the same way that we can make a dictionary of words in a language. Consequently, we must search for satisfactory ways of describing sentences and parts of sentences, and also sounds and combinations of sounds (Wardhaugh, 1972: 4).
To identify most forms in a language, the traditional grammatical analysis has labeled the categories as parts of speech. The parts of speech consist of nouns, articles, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, pronouns, and conjunctions (Yule, 2006: 74-75).
The central purpose of this paper is to extend the discussion of the following problems:

  • Kinds of conjunctions
  • Use of conjunctions.

The above definition of language as a system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for human communication allows for a wide range of scientific inquiries into language and its functions. At this point, therefore, we should return to a discussion of what it is that we claim to be describing.
To describe the English Language, we deal with what “grammar” means (Eckersley, 1971: 36). One of the ways to describe the language is to relate a word(s) to one of eight parts of speech (Wardhaugh, 1972: 9-10).
The parts of speech consist of:
 Nouns: words used to refer to people(boy), objects (book), creatures (dog), places (school), qualities (roughness), phenomena (earthquake), and abstract ideas (love).
 Articles: words used with nouns to form noun phrases classifying those things and identifying them as already known (a, an, the- You can have a banana or an apple. I’ll take the apple)
 Adjectives: words used typically with nouns to provide information about the things referred to (happy people, strange experience)
 Verbs: words used to refer to various kinds of actions (go, talk) and states (be, have) involving people and things in events (Jessica is ill and has a sore throat so she can’t talk or go anywhere).
 Adverbs: words used typically with verbs, to provide information about actions, states, and events (slowly, yesterday). Some adverbs (really, very) are also used with adjectives to modify information about things (Really large objects move slowly. I had a very strange experience yesterday).
 Prepositions: words (at, in on, near, with, without) used with nouns in phrases providing information about time (at five o’clock, in the morning), place (on the table, near the window), and other connections (with a knife, without a thought) involving actions and things.
 Pronouns: words (she, herself, they, it, you) used in place of noun phrases, typically referring to people and things already known (She talks to herself. They said it belonged to you).
 Conjunctions: words (and, but, because, when) used to make connections and indicate relationships between events (Her husband was so sweet and he helped her a lot because she couldn’t do much when she was pregnant).

Most conjunctions are historically derived from other parts of speech, in particular from prepositions. Like prepositions, the conjunctions are members of a small class that have no characteristic form. They function chiefly as non-movable structure words that join such units as parts of speech, phrases, or clauses (Frank, 1972: 206).
In line with the main purpose of this paper, the following is the more detailed discussion of the kinds and use of the conjunctions:

A. The kinds of conjunctions
Conjunctions are words that join clauses into sentences (Swan, 1996: 142). For instance, ‘I went to bed early because I was extremely tired’. In this complex sentence, ‘because’ is a conjunction since it joins two clauses, ‘I went to bed early’ and ‘I was extremely tired’.
Swan (1996: 142-44) has stated that there are two kinds of conjunctions:
 Coordinating conjunctions:
These are conjunctions that join pairs of clauses that are grammatically independent of each other, such as and, but, or, both … and, either … or, neither … nor, not only … but also.
– We brought the food and they supplied the drink.
– She was poor but she was honest.
– We can go swimming or we could stay here.
These examples reveal that the pair of clauses that are grammatically independent are joined by the conjunctions.

 Subordinating conjunctions
These are conjunctions together with its following clauses acts like part of the other clause, such as because, if, when, that, and which.
– I’ll phone when I arrive.
– He told me that he loved me.
– It’s a question which nobody can answer.
– People dislike her because she was so rude.
The above-mentioned examples show that the conjunctions may serve as an adverb or adjective in a clause. They also show that the relative pronouns (that, which, who) can be conjunctions.
 Correlative conjunctions:
Like coordinating conjunctions, these words are used to join words, phrases, and clauses, but appear in two parts, such as either …or, neither or, both … and, not only … but also, whether … or. Each of the pair of words should be followed by a word of the same grammatical form:
– either (noun) or (noun)
– not only (adj.) but also (adj.)

In addition, there are some conjunctions that are made up of two or more words.
– I stayed extra night so that I could see her.
– Let me know the moment that you arrive.
Furthermore, conjunctions may serve as a discourse marker or one of the formal links in a well-constructed discourse. The formal links are one of the ways we approach language as discourse as having a meaning and a unity for us; the other one is the contextual links. The conjunctions as parts of adverbs are of great interest in a study of discourse sequences, since their functions are largely to do with the organization of connected discourse, and with the interpretation of functional categories of speech acts. They are also known as connectives or connectors (Stubbs, 1983: 77).
There are six kinds of formal links: (1) verb form, (2) parallelism consisting of sound, grammatical, and semantic parallelism, (2) Referring expressions, (3) Repetition and lexical chains, (4) Substitution, (5) ellipsis, and (6) conjunctions. As a discourse marker, conjunctions function as a link between and among elements of a discourse. The link may be within a paragraph or between paragraphs (Cook, 1994).
For instance, the following poem, Christina Rosetti’s ‘My Friend’, is considered to be a discourse as these stretches of language have a meaning and unity. The conjunctions used in the poem, as one of the formal links, connects and unites the elements of the poem into a well-organized discourse. The poem is fully presented below:
My Friend
Christina Rossetti
Two days ago with dancing
glancing hair,
With living lips and eyes;
Now pale, dumb, blind, she lies;
So pale, yet still so fair.

We have not left her yet, not
yet alone;
But soon must leave her where
She will not miss our care,
Bone of our bone

She sleeps below.
She wakes and laughs above.
Today, as she walked, let us walk
in love;
Tomorrow follow so.

Conjunctions or the words and phrases that explicitly draw attention to the type of relationship that exist between one sentence or clause or another. They include:
 Adding more information to what has already been said,
Examples: furthermore, in addition, etc.
 Elaborating or exemplifying,
Examples: for instance, in other words, etc.
 Contrasting new information with old information,
Examples: or, on the other hand, etc.
 Relating new information to what has already been given in terms of causes,
Examples: so, consequently, because, for this reason, etc.
 Or in terms of time,
Examples: formerly, then, in the end, etc.
Similarly, Brown and Yule (1983: 191) have suggested that a familiar type of explicitly marked cohesive relationship in texts is indicated by formal markers which relate what is about to be said to what has been said before. The taxonomy of types of explicit markers of conjunctive relations is exemplified as follows:
 Additive: and, or, furthermore, similarly, in addition.
 Adversative: but, however, on the other hand,
 Causal: so, consequently, for this reason,
it follows from this.
 Temporal: then, after that, later, finally, at last.

B. The use of conjunctions
This section mainly discusses how we should use the conjunctions in real contexts:
 The position of adverbial subordinating conjunctions:
Adverbial subordinating conjunctions and their clauses can usually go either first or last in a sentence depending on what is to be emphasized.
– If you need help, just let me know.
– Just let me know if you need help.
Commas are often used to separate longer or more complicated clauses. Shorter pair of clauses are often connected without commas (Swan, 1996:129-30)
– I came home and the others went dancing.
– I decided to come home earlier than I had planned, and the others spent their evening at the local disco.
However, when a subordinate clause begins a sentence, it is more often separated by commas, even if it is short.
– If you are passing, come in and see us.
(Compare: Come in and see us if you are passing.)
Normally, a conjunction connects two clauses into one sentence. However, sometimes a conjunction and its clause can stand alone.
– A: “Why did you do that?”
B: “Because I felt like it.”

 Leaving out words for repeated ideas in two clauses:
Words for repeated ideas can often be left out in the second of two coordinate clauses, but not normally in a subordinate clause.
– She was depressed and didn’t know what to do.
– She was depressed, because she didn’t know what to do.
Particularly in formal speech and writing, we can leave out ‘subject + be’ in clauses with ‘when’ and ‘while’ if the main and subordinate clauses refer to the same subject (Hewings, 2001: 190):
– When in doubt about taking the medicine, consult your doctor. (= when you are in doubt)
– While on the boat, always wear a life jacket.

 Some other conjunctions may mean ‘because’:
We use ‘while’ and ‘when’ rather than ‘as’ if ‘as’ could also mean ‘because’.
– While you were playing golf, I went to the cinema.
(‘As you were playing golf…” could mean ‘Because you were playing golf’) (ibid.: 190)
To give reasons in spoken English, we often use ‘because’ (often spoken as ‘cos’) and ‘so’ is commonly used to express the same meaning.
– Because my mother’s arrived, I won’t be able to meet you on Friday after all.
– My mother’s arrived, so I won’t be able to meet you on Friday after all.
With this meaning, ‘since’ is rather formal (‘since’ is unlikely in informal speech).
– The Prime Minister has just returned home since it is growing unrest in his country.
Whereas in informal speech, ‘seeing that’ or ‘seeing as’ is used.

– He just had to apologize, seeing that/as he knew he’ made a mistake.
While ‘for’, ‘in that’, ‘inasmuch as’ are used to give reasons in formal or literary written English.
– We must begin planning now, for the future may bring unexpected changes.
– The film is unusual in that there are only four actors in it.
– We have quite an easy life, inasmuch as neither of us has to work hard to earn this much money (ibid.:192)
In addition, ‘because of’, ‘due to’, and ‘owing to’ are used to give a reason for something and used before as noun or a noun phrase.
– We won’t be able to come because of the weather.
(Compare: We won’t be able to come because it was a bad weather)
– We won’t be able to come due to the weather.
– We won’t be able to come owing to the weather.
People avoid using ‘owing to’ after the verb ‘be’.
– The company’s success is due to the new director. (not ‘owing to’)
Instead of using ‘because of’, we may use ‘for’.
– She was looking all better for her stay in hospital.
With the same meaning, ‘with’ has a similar meaning to ‘because there is/there are’.
– With so many people ill, I’ve decided to cancel the meeting.
 Conjunctions to express a purpose or result:
To talk about the purpose of something we may use ‘in order to’ or ‘so as to’.
– He took the course in order to get a better job.
– He took the course so as to get a better job.
However, in spoken English, it is much more common to use a ‘to-infinitive without in order to or so as to’ to express the same meaning.
– He took the course to get a better job.
(ibid.: 194)
To make a negative sentence with this construction, we put not before the to-infinitive.
– He took the course in order not to be degraded.
– He took the course so as not to be degraded.
However, we cannot use a negative if we use only a to-infinitive.
– I carried the knife carefully in order/ so as not to cut myself (not …carefully not to cut myself.)
Nevertheless, compare this sentence with the negative sentence with ‘in order/ so as/ to-infinitive + but:
– I came to see you not (in order/ so as) to complain, but to apologize.
Besides that, we also use ‘in order that’ and ‘so that’ to express a purpose.
– She stayed at work late in order that/ so that she could complete the report.
– She stayed at work late in order/ so as to complete the report.
‘So that’ is more common than ‘in order that’, and is used in less formal situations.
To talk about a purpose, we can also use ‘for’ as summarized in the following table (ibid.: 194):

To talk about the purpose of an action: for + noun or to-infinitive  I’m saving for a new car.
 I’m saving to buy a new car.
To talk about the purpose of a thing or to define it: for + V-ing  This is good for getting rid of headaches.
To talk about the use a person makes of something:
to-infinitive  She used a heavy book to keep the door open.

Moreover, ‘so …that’ to link a cause with a result. In speech, that ‘that’ is left out.
– The train was so slow that I was almost two hours late.
For special emphasis, particularly in formal English, we can put ‘so … that’ at the beginning of a sentence and the put the verb before the object.

– So slow was the rain that I was almost two hours late.
We can sometimes use ‘so … as + to-infinitive’ instead of ‘so …that’.
– It was so unusual as to seem almost a joke (= so unusual that it seemed almost a joke).
 Conjunctions to express a contrast:
To express a contrast between what happened in the main clause and in then adverbial clause, we may use ‘although’ or ‘though’.
– Although/Though Ralph failed to score himself, he helped John score two goals.
However, ‘though’ is often less formal. And it can be used as an adverb to say that the information in a clause contrasts with information in a previous sentence. In this case, we cannot use ‘although’.
– I eat most dairy products. I’m not keen on yoghurt, though. (not …., although).
We can give special emphasis to an adjective or an adverb by putting it before ‘though’ or ‘as’ especially when followed by a linking verb such as be, appear, become, look, seem, sound, prove, etc. (ibid.: 196)
– Extraordinary though/as it may seem, London had less rain than Rome.
In this case, we cannot use ‘although’.
‘Much as’ is used in a similar way before a clause, particularly to talk about how we feel about someone or something.
– Much as I enjoyed the holiday, I was glad to be home.
(= Although I enjoyed …)
Next, we can use ‘even though’ to mean ‘despite the fact that’ and ‘even if’ to mean ‘whether or not’.
– Even though Tom doesn’t speak Spanish, I think he should still visit Madrid. = Despite the fact that he doesn’t speak Spanish i.e. The speaker knows Tom doesn’t speak Spanish
– Even if Tom doesn’t speak Spanish, I think he should visit Madrid = Whether or not he speaks Spanish i.e. The speaker doesn’t know definitely whether Tom speaks Spanish or not.

In addition, we may use ‘in spite of’ and ‘despite’ with a similar meaning to ‘although’.
– In spite of playing with ten men, we won easily.
– In spite of their poverty, the children seemed happy.
While ‘despite’ is often used particularly in written English.
– Despite falling midway through the race, she won.
Both ‘‘in spite of’ and ‘despite’ are never followed by a clause with a finite verb. But we can use both in a clause with a finite verb after ‘the fact that’.
– Despite/ In spite of the fact that she fell midway through the race, she won.

 Combinations of conjunctions in sentences or paragraphs:
We may use some of the above-mentioned constructions of conjunctions in the same sentence or paragraph.
– It was while I was in Boston that I first met Courtney Cazden, Sarah Michaels, Eliot Mishler, Cathy O’Connor, and Dennis Wolf, colleagues who worked at other institutions, but whose work and viewpoints have deeply influenced my own ever since.(Gee, 1999: vii).
– The environmental challenge we face is quite simple: There is a finite supply of fresh water on Earth, and it is being consumed by more and more humans, which, in turn, throws the entire water cycle out of whack. As we pave over more land to build bigger cities- and dump our excesses into rivers and seas- the important natural catchments that purify our water disappear in the areas where we need them most (Reader’s Digest, Vol. 92, No. 548: 7).

From the previous analysis, it can be concluded that by providing the connections that make parts of a discourse cohere, conjunctions help to achieve greater unity within the discourse.
There are mainly two types of conjunctions: coordinate and subordinate, even though another type, correlative, may be added. They play an important role in compounding grammatical units. This compounding or connecting help the reader or the listener finds out the relationship between the many complexities of thought that are being expressed.
In addition, the conjunctions may be used to express addition, exemplification, contrast, causes, and purpose/result. They may be used individually or with their combinations in a single sentence, paragraph, or discourse.


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Cook, Guy. 1994. Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Eckersley, C. E. 1971. Essential English for Foreign Students 2. U.K.: Longman Group Ltd.

Fowler, W. S. 1979. Proficiency English. Middlesex: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd.

Frank, Marcella. 1972. Modern English: A Practical Reference Guide. N.J.: Prentice Hall, Inc.

Gee, James Paul. 1999. An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method. New York and London: Routledge.

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Plouffe, Jim. 2008. Being Blue. Reader’s Digest (Asian Edition), Volume 92, No. 548, November.

Stubbs, Michael. 1983. Discourse Analysis: The Sociolinguistic Analysis of Natural Language. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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Wardhaugh, Ronald. 1972. Introduction to Linguistics. U.S.A: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Yule, George. 2006. The Study of Language: Third Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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