Grammar Rules

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.

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  • 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.

  1. She is both intelligent and beautiful.
  2. I will either go for a hike or stay home and watch TV.
  3. Jerry is neither rich nor famous.
  4. He is not only intelligent, but also very funny.
  5. 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.

  2. _______ 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.

  3. 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?

  4. _______ 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.

  5. 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

Correlative Conjunctions Exercises

1. I like __________ to sing opera, _______________ to spend my spare time practicing ballroom dances.
A. not only / but also
B. whether / or
C. neither / nor
D. not / but

2. The test was ____________ very short __________ quite easy.
A. not / but
B. both / and
C. whether / or
D. scarcely / when

3. ______________ Joe _______ his sisters could understand what their parents were saying when they spoke French.
A. Whether / or
B. No sooner / than
C. Rather / than
D. Neither / nor

Answer Key:

1 – A. I like not only to sing opera, but also to spend my spare time practicing ballroom dances.
2 – B. The test was both very short and quite easy.
3 – D. Neither Joe nor his sisters could understand what their parents were saying when they spoke French.