[Conjunctions] – Lesson 2: Correlative conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are pairs. They connect balanced clauses, phrases or words. The elements which they connect are usually similar in structure or length.

either . . . or We can go to either Greece or Spain for our holiday.
both . . . and Both rugby and football are popular in France.
not only . . . but also Not only is he a professional footballer, but he’s also a successful businessman.
neither . . . nor Neither Norway nor Switzerland is in the EU.
not . . . but There are not two but three Baltic states: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Correlative conjunctions are pairs such as neither . . . nornot . . . only, and but . . . also. These conjunctions connect two balanced clauses, phrases, or words.

The two elements that correlative conjunctions connect are usually similar in length and grammatical structure.

Here are a few example sentences containing correlative conjunctions:

  • either . . . or
    We can go to either Greece or Spain for our holiday.
    It’s my final offer – you can either take it or leave it.
  • both . . . and
    Both rugby and football are popular in France.
    Both English and Welsh are spoken in Wales.
  • not only . . . but also
    Not only is he a professional footballer, but he’s also a successful businessman.
  • not . . . but
    There are not two but three Baltic states: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
    In sport, what counts is not the winning but the taking part.
  • neither . . . nor
    Neither Norway nor Switzerland is in the European Union.
    Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory. 
    (Abraham Lincoln)
  • whether . . . or
    Whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit that the Rolling Stones are very popular.
    I’m totally confused – I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.
  • no sooner . . . than
    No sooner had I finished watering the garden than it started raining.

 

Subject-verb agreement

Watch out! The verb which follows two subjects joined by a correlative conjunction must agree with thesecond subject, NOT the first:

Either my brother or my mum look looks after our cat when we’re away on holiday.
Either my brother or my parents looks look after our cat when we’re away on holiday.
Neither the manager nor his assistant are is here today.
Neither the manager nor his assistants is are here today.

 

 

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