The Grammar Patrol Explains The Job of Conjunctions: Linking
We (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.
You know the term “ear worm,” right? It’s when a song gets lodged in your brain and plays over and over. We’ve been hearing “Conjunction Junction” while planning this month’s column.
Can you bring up the song “Conjunction junction—what’s your function?” in your mind? Good old Schoolhouse Rock. Those of us of a certain age learned all about conjunctions singing those jaunty lyrics.
If conjunctions puzzle you, get the inside story for their “link with” meaning:
con = with
junct (and join, jug) = join, meet, link
(Think of some words from this cool root! See sampling at end of post.)
Conjunctions are words that link groups of words or parts of sentences.
On April 26, National Pretzel Day, we can say this:
• Doughnuts and croissants are jealous of pretzels.
That little “and” does the job of linking doughnuts with croissants.
Other common conjunctions:
as, because, but, if, or, since, so, than, though, unless, while
• Since it’s April 26, I’ll celebrate with homemade pretzels.
• The Jolly Green Giant is taller than the Hulk.
Tip: If the Hulk is speaking, he’d say, “The Jolly Green Giant is taller than I.”
(Use I, not me. “Taller than I am” is implied.)
There used to be a hard and fast rule about some conjunctions, as in: Don’t start a sentence with “and” or “but.” This rule has relaxed. It’s fine to start occasionally with these conjunctions. Just do it sparingly. (Avoid this usage in formal writing, such as a legal contract or a thesis.)
• And Jeannie’s prank made the best April Fool’s joke ever.
• But who really ate all those pretzels?
Some conjunctions work in pairs:
both/and neither/nor whether/or not
either/or not only/but also
• Neither Jim nor Molly won the March Madness NCAA pool.
• Whether there’s another huge snowstorm or not, it’s been a tough winter.
Let’s home in on the tricky word “as.”
When “as” is used as a conjunction, you’ll see that a verb follows.
• As Justin saw Elise streak across the finish line, he knew he’d lost the race.
You can pair “as” with “if” or “though” to create the conjunctions “as if” and “as though.”
• On April first, Tina felt as if she’d been tricked.
• Amy felt as though she hadn’t.
But what about that other “as”? The proposition. “As” is a preposition if followed by a comparison and no verb.
• As a coulrophobe, Seeley Booth of Bones has an intense fear of clowns.
While we’re at it, let’s visit “like.”
This word is a preposition, not a conjunction. (And a verb, of course: We like conjunctions.) Yet misuse of “like” is rampant and ubiquitous. A dean of a prestigious Eastern college counted 28 uses of the word “like” in a ten-minute conversation among students.
• Like Dumbo, Sally often dreamed she could fly.
This example makes a comparison and is not followed by a verb. Here, “like” is a preposition, not a conjunction.
• Like I said, that contract was due yesterday.
[preposition used as a conjunction]
In this example, “like” is followed by the verb “said” and does not make a comparison. This common blooper incorrectly turns “like” into a conjunction. Use the conjunction “as”: “As I said . . .”
If Schoolhouse Rock is new to you, hear “Conjunction Junction” on YouTube.
Did you come up with other words from junct, join, jug?
junction, juncture, adjoin, adjunct, joint, jugular . . .
As (not “like”) we’ve mentioned, we love hearing from you. As (not “like”) we’ve said before, stay tuned for more grammar next month.