Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are pairs of words that connect or relate grammatically equal parts of a sentence to each other.

Like most dynamic duos, they can exist independently, but they're much stronger together.

Here are some examples of correlative conjunctions:
- whether/or
- neither/nor
- not/but
- as many/as
- no sooner/than
- not only/but also



"Colton attributes his success with the ladies to both his winning personality and his enormous bank account."

In this shallow example, the correlative conjunctions both and and join forces to explain why Colton always has a date on Saturday night. Notice that "winning personality" and "enormous bank account" are both noun phrases; since they match up, you can use the correlative conjunction.

"Either Aisha threw a wild party while we were out of town, or our house was hit by a tornado."

Aisha is busted. The correlative conjunctions either and or are used here to link the two possible causes of why her parents' house is a disaster, and one of them is much more plausible than the other. "Aisha threw a wild party" and "our house was hit by a tornado" match grammatically, so either/or works perfectly.

"I'd rather jam pretzel rods in my ears than listen to Nickelback."

In this sentence, rather and than are a pair of correlative conjunctions that relate listening to Canadian rockers Nickelback to the pain of shoving salt-studded snack food in one's ear holes. Since "jam pretzel rods" and "listen to Nickelback" are grammatically equal, rather/than is a-okay.


Common mistakes

People love to leave out the "also" in the not only/but also pairing. Not sure what they have against that four-letter word, but let's put it this way: if it were playing kickball, it would be chosen last. Every. Single. Time.


"Shmoop HQ is not only raucous, but it's also productive."


"Shmoop HQ is not only raucous, but it's productive."

Door #1, please. Without the also, you're not technically in the grammar-right. Sure, every single person on the planet will know what you're saying, but that's not what you're here for.

You can't just throw in correlative conjunctions wherever you want. They only work when connecting two parts of a sentence that are grammatically equal.


"Grammar is hard not only for English language learners, but also for native speakers."


"Grammar is hard not only for English language learners, but also because there are so many exceptions to the rule."

Oof. The second example is cringeworthy. "For English language learners" and "because there are so many exceptions to the rule" are not grammatically equal, so you can't use the not only/but also. Sorry, dudes.


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