Conjunctions in English 3 – Correlative Conjunctions

What is a correlative conjunction?

Correlative conjunctions, or paired conjunctions, are sets of conjunctions that are always used together. Like coordinating conjunctions, they join words, phrases, or independent clauses of similar or equal importance and structure. Unlike coordinating conjunctions, they can only join two elements together, no more. Some of the most common correlative conjunctions are:

  • both … and
  • either … or
  • just as … so
  • neither … nor
  • not … but
  • not only … but also
  • whether … or

Functions of correlative conjunctions

both … and

We use both … and when we want to put emphasis on two elements that are true in a sentence. We could also use the coordinating conjunction and, but it doesn’t achieve the same emphatic effect. Compare:

  • This house is large and cozy.
  • This house is both large and cozy.
  • She cleaned her room and washed the dishes.
  • She both cleaned her room and washed the dishes.
  • My mother and father are bookworms.
  • Both my mother and my father are bookworms.
  • Every day both the cat and the dogs wake me up.
  • Both Mike and Daniel found their shoes.
  • Both Jane and Alice are introverts and get along very well.
  • She played both hockey and basketball when she was a student.

In the above examples, the sentences using both … and are more emphatic. Note, however, that the both … and construction doesn’t join independent clauses, only words or phrases.

either … or

We use either … or to present two options. Again, it emphasizes the fact that the choice is limited to only the two given options. For example:

  • I want to paint the house either white or green.
  • Let’s either go swimming or go shopping.
  • Either your father will pick you up, or you’ll get a ride home with a friend.
  • I will eat either carrots or peas for dinner.
  • Either John or Sophia will be there.
  • We should bring either tea or coffee.
  • I do not speak English. You do not either.

just as … so

We use: just as … so, to indicate that the two elements being joined are similar. Usually, just as, begins an independent clause, and: so is followed by a second independent clause. Traditionally, the clause after so should be inverted, as in:

  • Just as I love films, so does my brother love sports.
  • Just as Americans love baseball, so do Europeans love soccer.
  • Just as French is spoken in France, so is English spoken in England.
  • Just as she loves hiking, so she enjoys travelling as well.

However, it’s also common (especially in informal writing and speech) for this structure to occur without inversion, as in:

  • Just as I love films, so my brother loves sports.
  • Just as Americans love baseball, so Europeans love soccer.
  • Just as French is spoken in France, so English is spoken in England.

neither … nor

We use neither … nor to negate two options. For example:

  • I have neither the time nor the patience for silly TV programs.
  • (I don’t have time, and I don’t have patience.)
  • Neither James nor Mike enjoys playing basketball.
  • (James and Mike both do not enjoy playing basketball.)
  • Neither does he understand, nor does he care.
  • (He doesn’t understand, and he doesn’t care.)

Note that when neither and nor begin two independent clauses, we must use negative inversion (the reversal of the subject and auxiliary verb) for each, as in the third example.

not … but

We use: not … but, to express a contradiction, negating the first option while emphasizing the second. For example:

  • He is not happy but thrilled!
  • She did not like but loved her new earrings.
  • Not just one friend turned up to help, but the entire team arrived.
  •  He is not educated, but he possesses practical wisdom

not only … but also

We use: not only, but also. to emphasize an additional element in the sentence, especially when its occurrence seems contradictory, or surprising in light of what we already know.

  • This house is not only large, but also cozy.
  • (The speaker believes that large houses are not usually cozy.)
  • She not only cleaned her room, but she also washed the dishes.
  • (The speaker is surprised that she did both chores.)
  • Not only is she an award-winning singer, but she also runs track.
  • (The speaker is impressed that she is able to do these two unrelated activities.)
  • Not only will they paint the outside of the house, but also the inside.
  • I have taught English, not only in the U.S., but also in other countries.
  • She is not only beautiful, but also very smart.
  • Not only does he play guitar, but he also writes his own songs.
  • Not only do I love this band, but I have also seen them in concert twice.
  • Not only will I see your $20, but also raise you $30.
  • She not only wrote the screenplay for the movie, but also acted a role in it. 

whether … or

We use: whether, or. to express doubt between two possible options. Whether has the same meaning as, if. in this regard.

We also use: whether, or. to indicate that something will happen no matter, which choice is made.

  • I do not know whether the white paint, or the green paint is better.
  • He is not sure, whether he will be able to attend the game or not.
  • Whether we stay home and eat a pizza, or we go out and watch a film, I am sure we will have a good time.
  • I am going to help you, whether you like it or not.
  • I’m not sure, whether the white paint or painting it green would be better.”
  • You must decide, whether you will go by train or by plane.
  • Do you care whether we have noodles or rice for dinner?

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