Using Coordinating Conjunctions (FANBOYS): Rules & Exercises


There are seven coordinating conjunctions in English. These words are

  • F = for
  • A = and
  • N = nor
  • B = but
  • O = or
  • Y = yet
  • S = so

Coordinating conjunctions are also called FANBOYS because the first letter of each word can spell FANBOYS.

Joining Independent Clauses

One purpose of a coordinating conjunction is to join two independent clauses (simple sentences). For example:

{ simple sentence } . { simple sentence } .

I am hungry. I do not have any food.

With a coordinating conjunction:

{ simple sentence } , [FANBOYS]  { simple sentence } .

I am hungry, but I do not have any food.

When you combine two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction, you create a compound sentence. Often, using compound sentence is better because it helps the reader understand how the two ideas relate to each other. Because you have added “but”, it shows that the ideas in each clause contrast.

Joining Nouns (Phrases)

Some coordinating conjunctions can also join noun phrases. (A noun phrase is a word like “pizza” or “delicious pizza”). For example,

  • She likes basketball and soccer. (two nouns joined by and)
  • You can have soup or salad.
  • She cannot dance nor sing.
  • She looked beautiful yet worried.

Notes

  • When joining phrases, do not put a comma before the coordinating conjunction.
  • The coordinating conjunctions so and for cannot join phrases.

Coordinating Conjunction Functions

Here is a table that shows the functions of each coordinating conjunction:

for: used to show cause & effect (similar to ‘because’)

  • She was tired, for she did not sleep well last night.

and: used to join two related ideas (the ideas do not contrast)

  • I went to the store, and I bought a banana. 

nor: used with two negative ideas. (Note: nor is often used with neither. Also, with nor, the subject (my sister) and auxiliary verb (did) are reversed)

  • I did not like the movie nor did my sister.

but: used to show contrast between two ideas (one idea is often positive, but the other is negative)

  • I went to the store, but it was closed.

or: used to join two different choices

  • You can take the bus, or you can walk with me.

yet: used for contrast (the same as but)

  • The movie was boring, yet I watched all of it.

so: used for cause & effect (similar to for but the order of ideas is the opposite)

  • She did not sleep last night, so she was tired.
These faces show contrast.

The man is happy, but then he is sad. (This image shows contrast.)

Notes about Coordinating Conjunctions

1. The most common FANBOYS are and, but, or, so. The conjunction for is old-fashioned and rarely used.

2. In academic and professional writing, FANBOYS are generally not used to start sentences. Instead, they are used to join two independent clauses to make a compound sentence. However, in informal writing and speaking, FANBOYS are often used to start sentences.

3. If you are joining two independent clauses, then some teachers believe it is best to put a comma before the coordinating conjunction. If you are joining two phrases (i.e. nouns), then a comma is not required. Compare:

  • {I opened the front door}, and {the dog quickly ran outside.} (with a comma)

Both {independent sentences} are complete thoughts that can be written as simple sentences. If you want to combine them, some teachers believe that you should put a comma before the FANBOYS.

  • {I bought pizza} and {a hotdog}. (noun)

The second phrase, “a hot dog” is not an independent clause (there is no subject or verb). Therefore, you should not put a comma before “and”.

  • {She looked in her bag} but {didn’t find her pen}.

Again, the second part {but didn’t find her pen} is not a complete thought (the subject is missing). Therefore, do not put a comma before ‘but’.

 

Do you think you understand? Insert the correct coordinating conjunction below.

Exercises: Coordinating conjunctions

  1. It was raining, we still had fun.
  2. I could not go into the store, it was closed.
  3. She was quite sleepy, she continued to study.
  4. Tina didn’t want to exercise, did she want to study.
  5. The children saw lions tigers at the zoo.
  6. Tomorrow it might be cloudy, it might be sunny.
  7. It was cold outside, we stayed inside.
  8. They visited the museum went to a restaurant afterwards.

  

Questions? Find a mistake? Please leave a comment below.

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6 comments on “Using Coordinating Conjunctions (FANBOYS): Rules & Exercises

  1. Manal aljewari (Posted on 5-4-2020 at 19:39) Reply

    It’s easy but sometimes I confused

  2. amiho2004 (Posted on 7-8-2020 at 11:02) Reply

    Thanks. The exercises are really excellent.

  3. Hank Wang (Posted on 7-21-2020 at 19:56) Reply

    What a wonderful exercise. Thanks.
    These exercises are very helpful for me but I still cannot understand them completely after I finished all of these. I need to do more practices.

  4. Julio Sánchez (Posted on 9-14-2020 at 07:49) Reply

    Good day, how are you in this moment? I have to say I teach english in secondary, but even so I get confused with “but” vs “yet” and “for” vs “because”. It will drive me nuts.

  5. Visnja (Posted on 9-14-2020 at 17:51) Reply

    The difficulty is understanding the difference between ‘but’ and ‘yet’, and ‘for’ and ‘because’. The meaning is generally the same in each pair (but = yet, generally, and ,for = because); however, ‘yet’ and ‘for’ are much more formal, so they are more common and more useful in formal writing (essays/presentations/textbooks). ‘But’ and ‘because’ are used in both formal and informal situations, so they are far more useful. My advice is to understand ‘yet’ and ‘for’ as coordinating conjunctions when you read them, but learn and use ‘but’ and ‘because’ much more often.

    i.e.:
    Textbooks are intended to present the undisputed truth, yet it is obvious that an author’s personal opinion may sometimes enter the content of any work.
    Online learning may be challenging for certain learners, for individual differences in learning styles may not be taken into account.

    and less formally:

    We should be able to trust a textbook, but an author may also insert an opinion ‘between the lines’.
    Online learning can be difficult for some students because ( or ,since) people learn in different ways.

    1. MB (Posted on 9-14-2020 at 18:37) Reply

      Great response, Visnja.

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