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Correlative Conjunctions

What is a correlative conjunction?

As suggested by their name, correlative conjunctions correlate, working in pairs to join phrases or words that carry equal importance within a sentence. Like many of the most interesting parts of speech, correlative conjunctions are fun to use. At the same time, there are some important rules to remember for using them correctly. In these examples, the correlative conjunctions are bold and other elements being discussed are in blue.

  • When using correlative conjunctions, ensure verbs agree so your sentences make sense. For example: Every night, either loud music or fighting neighbors wake John from his sleep.
  • When you use a correlative conjunction, you must be sure that pronouns agree. For example: Neither Debra nor Sally expressed her annoyance when the cat broke the antique lamp.
  • When using correlative conjunctions, be sure to keep parallel structure intact. Equal grammatical units need to be incorporated into the entire sentence. For example: Not only did Mary grill burgers for Michael, but she also fixed a steak for her dog, Vinny.


Examples of Correlative Conjunctions

In the following examples, the correlative conjunctions have been italicized for easy identification.

She is both intelligent and beautiful.

I will either go for a hike or stay home and watch TV.

Jerry is neither rich nor famous.

He is not only intelligent, but also very funny.

Would you rather go shopping or spend the day at the beach?

Correlative Conjunctions Exercises

The following exercises will help you gain greater understanding about how correlative conjunctions work. Choose the best answer to complete each sentence.

  1. She is neither polite _______ funny.
    1. Or
    2. Nor
    3. Not
    4. Yet

Answer: B. She is neither polite nor funny.

  1. _____ that is the case, _______ I’m not surprised about what’s happening.
    1. If / then
    2. No sooner / than
    3. Scarcely / when
    4. Whether / or

Answer: A. If that is the case, then I’m not surprised about what’s happening.

  1. Have you made a decision about _______________ to go to the movies ______ not?
    1. If  / then
    2. Either / or
    3. Whether / or
    4. What with / and

Answer: C. Have you made a decision about whether to go to the movies or not?

  1. ___________________ had I put my umbrella away, _______ it started raining.
    1. No sooner / than
    2. If / then
    3. What with / and
    4. Neither / nor

Answer: A. No sooner had I put my umbrella away, than it started raining.

  1. This salad is __________ delicious __________ healthy.
    1. Whether / or
    2. Both / and
    3. Scarcely / when
    4. Rather / than

Answer: B. This salad is both delicious and healthy.

Correlative Conjunctions List

There are many pairs of correlative conjunctions. This list contains many of the most commonly used pairs.

As / as

Both / and

Either / or

Hardly / when

If / then

Just as / so

Neither / nor

Not only / but also

No sooner / than

Not / but

Rather / than

Scarcely / when

What with / and

Whether / or