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Correlative Conjunctions

correlative conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are pairs of conjunctions that correlate with one another to join words or phrases together that have more or less equal importance within the sentence. So, correlative conjunctions are sort of like ‘combos’. They come in pairs, and they need to be in pairs to function.

Typical correlative conjunctions in English are: neither…nor, either…or, both…and, not only…but also, just as…so, not only…but, whether…or.

In this lesson, we will learn the most popular Correlative Conjunctions in English

Correlative Conjunctions – A Quick Intro

For instance, Have you ever heard of phrases like these in English? 

  • Neither do they speak nor listen. 
  • Both my brother and I play football. 
  • Just as you like basketball, so do I. 

Check out these word pairs neither… nor, both…and, and just as…so. These are what we call Correlative Conjunctions in English. And there are more than just these! So, we use Conjunctions as well as Correlative Conjunctions in English to join words or phrases that have the same or equal utility (nouns with nouns, adjectives with adjectives etc.)

For example, in, 

  • You are both tall and nice. We use the correlative conjunction “both…and” to connect the adjectives “tall” and “nice”, hence they are of the same grammatical utility. 

We can’t say, for example, 

  • You are both tall and nicely.

Because “tall” = adjective and “nicely” = adverb. So, we have two words of different grammar utilities (an adjective and an adverb). 

Neither…nor

Use neither…nor to make two things, people or experiences negative. 

  • Neither my dad nor my mum like television. (Here, there are two people, “dad” and “mum” who don’t like television, so, here we can use the Correlative Conjunction “neither…nor”). 
  • Neither my country nor yours have lakes. (So, both countries do not have lakes, therefore, we have two of the same. So the best way to express this is with neither…nor). 

Either…or

We use this combination when we have two choices or options. We can choose one of them. This one definitely comes in handy! 

  • Either you visit your cousin on Tuesday or Friday. (Here, you can choose if you visit your cousin on “Tuesday” or “Friday” – you have a choice, hence, “either…or”. 
  • Can you either bring me a tea or a coffee, please? (The two choices are “tea” and “coffee”. Remember, use “either…or” when you want to present a choice between two options). 

Both…and

We can use “both…and” to show that two things or people are the same. That is, both options are equal. 

  • I love both my sister and my brother. (Here, you love two people, your sister, and your brother, so, you love two people equally, hence, both…and
  • You could both “like” and “subscribe” to this amazing lesson on YouTube down below if you want to! (Apologies, but we just had to plug!).

Not…only…but also

We use this combination to give more information about something. Further, here comes the somewhat tricky part: we need to invert the subject with the verb (as if it were an interrogative, but only if we begin the phrase with “not only”). You’ll see what we mean with some examples.  

  • Not only are you nice but also you are amazing! (Here, we have to invert the first “are” with “you” because we began the phrase with “not only”. Let’s take a look to see the incorrect version where we do not invert the subject with the verb. 
  • Not only you are nice but also you are amazing! = X. (This is a common mistake, and this Correlative Conjunction, in particular, is a little special whereby you need to invert the subject with the verb if you begin the phrase with “Not only”. Therefore, 
  • Not only are you nice but also you are amazing! = Correct! 

However, if we do not begin the phrase with “not only”, then we do not need to do the inversion. For example, 

  • You are not only nice but also you are amazing!

See what we mean? Here, because we did not begin with “not only”, but rather “you are”, we don’t have to invert the subject with the verb. Let’s look at a couple more examples, because this one might be a little tricky. 

  • Not only did you work hard but also you finished on time. (Since we began with “not only” we must invert the main auxiliary verb “did” with the subject “you”. On the contrary, we don’t have to begin the phrase with “not only”, in which there would be no auxiliary inversion, for instance: 
  • You not only worked hard but also you finished on time. (Here, we also used “worked” because we don’t have “did” to indicate the past, hence the past simple form “worked”. 

Learn more about “Auxiliary Inversion”!

Just as…so

We can use “just as…so” to show a similarity between two people or things. It’s also common to use ellipsis with this correlative conjunction to shorten the sentence (ellipsis is when you omit words to make a phrase shorter). You’ll see exactly what we mean in just a tick! 

  • Just as my friend likes hiking so does my sister = Just as my friend likes hiking so does my sister also like hiking. (So, instead of adding “also like hiking” to the sentence we can use a type of ellipsis with “just as…so”. Ellipsis just means that you omit some words because they are already assumed. We use ellipsis to avoid making redundant phrases). Further, we are using the correlative conjunction “just as…so” as another way of saying “my friend likes hiking” and “my sister also likes hiking”. It’s just a more advanced and fluid way of saying it. 
  • Just as we do sports so does Maria = Just as we do sports so does Maria also do sports. (Here, we don’t want to add the last part “also do sports” because it is redundant. Furthermore, we used the correlative conjunction “just as…so” here to say that “we do sports” and “Maria also does sports”.

Whether…or

“Weather…or” is somewhat similar to “either…or” such that you have a choice between two options. However, “whether…or” is a little different in that we normally give a consequence or effect depending on either one of the options being true, or both of them being true. Vamos! 

  • Whether you take that street or the other street, it is not important. (So, here we make use of “whether…or” to give two options followed by an effect or consequence: “it is not important”. Meaning, “it’s not important which street you take”). In this case, you can take both options, but the result will still be the same. That result is: “It is not important”. Hence, “whether…or”. This one’s a beauty! 
  • Our party will still happen whether you like it or not. (In this case, the consequence is “our party will still happen” and we don’t care about the conditions, those being “whether you like it or not”. 

Lesson Summary of Correlative Conjunctions

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